Bread is not easy. Anytime we deal with a living organism, there is unpredictability. Live things just don’t always do what we wish, or it takes longer, or it happens faster. In any event, it’s not always on our exacting timetable. But it doesn’t have to be so maddening.
A number of people have said to me recently that they’ve tried and failed to make their own bread. We’re going to work on that, because once you get it, there is nothing more satisfying in the cooking world than pulling a beautiful loaf of bread out of your own oven. Even after 25 years of cooking and making bread on a daily basis on the boat, I still love it.
We’ll begin with a step by step of the guideline/recipe in Sugar and Salt: Book One and move on to adding grains and different ingredients. I’ll be posting once a month or so and then take a break over the summer. We’ll come back to it in the fall, just in time for the first chilly snap of frost that makes us think of heating the house and warming our bellies.
This recipe requires a Dutch oven. This covered pot creates a convective space for moist air, which allows the bread to rise beautifully, and then, once the moisture has dissipated, creates a terrific crust. I use this method at home frequently. However, on the Riggin I need to make 4 loaves at a time – but I don’t have the space for 4 Dutch ovens. So I choose the other, more traditional method that is in Sugar & Salt: Book One.
Basic No-Knead Recipe
5 cups flour (or flours) of your choice
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1 to 2 cups water
Roasted Garlic and Black Olive Bread
to the basic recipe add:
1 cup pitted black olives
1/3 cup peeled roasted garlic cloves; about 1 head roasted garlic
Combine all ingredients except water in a large bowl. Add water and mix with one hand, adding water until the dough just barely forms a ball and there are no little dry bits hanging out in the bowl. Depending on how moist the olives and garlic are, the amount of water can vary from 1 cup to 2 cups. This dough should feel too wet to knead and like biscuit dough in moisture content.
Cover the bowl with a layer of plastic wrap; and let the dough rise at room temperature overnight, until the surface of the dough has risen and is flat, not rounded. For those who have worked with traditional kneaded dough, this will look like a disaster. Just wait, it will be fine.
Place a Dutch oven (an oven proof pan with a lid) into the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Shape the dough into a round boule by tucking the dough loosely under itself; place the loaf in a bowl lined with parchment paper.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise again until doubled, another 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Slash the tops of the loaf with a sharp knife and transfer the parchment paper and dough to the hot Dutch oven and cover with the hot lid.
Bake until the exterior is golden brown and the bottom is firm; about 50 to 70 minutes (no peeking for at least the first half hour). Remove from both the oven and the Dutch oven and let cool before slicing.