The theme of our meals this week is quick and easy. With the boys Spring/Summer sports beginning and a freezer full of cookie dough patiently waiting to be baked for that big event, there really isn't much time for long afternoons to be spent stove-side whipping up a new recipe or lazily prepping an old one.
For times like these I have a few recipes that I turn to when I need a meal in a pinch, and while I was trying to decide which of these gems I should share with you today, it dawned on me that you need to know about the bread recipe that I use. This bread recipe is so fantastic my family and I are able to eat fresh homemade bread, almost every day of the week, with very little work on my part. In fact, we haven't bought a loaf of bread from the grocery store since December, this recipe is just that easy.
This bread is extremely versatile and we use it for toast, paninis and dippers for our soup. After a few days, if there happens to be a hunk of it left, I slice it up into cubes, and toast it in the oven for homemade croutons. I try to make two or three loaves at a time so I don't have to bake the bread fresh every day, but making a loaf a day is also an option. Kept in a cloth bread bag, or even a zip-lock plastic bag, this bread will keep fresh for 2-3 days.
Children are easily able to make this bread with you. When you're ready have your little chefs measure and place the four (flour, yeast, salt and water) ingredients into a bowl and mix them all together. Essentially that is all that needs to be done to yield three great loaves of bread. I already have one of my loaves sitting on the counter waiting to be used for breakfast tomorrow morning, and I can't guarantee it won't also make an appearance with our dinner as well...it's that good...and easy!
Homemade Bread, slightly adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1.5 tbsp salt
1.5 tbsp granulated yeast
3 cups of lukewarm water
2 tsp. dried seasoning of your choice (sage, basil, rosemary and thyme)
~ The first thing we need to do is mix and store the dough. Warm the water slightly. It should feel like a nice warm bath..not too hot and not too cold. If you're using a thermometer the temperature should read 100 - 105 degrees.
~ Add the warm water to a large re-seal-able, lidded bowl. Sprinkle the yeast, salt and seasonings on top of the water. Don't worry about making it dissolve.
~ Add all of your flour at once, sprinkling it over the water/yeast/salt. Mix the ingredients together well with the end of a wooden spoon (I find the end works better than the spoon itself). Mix until there are no dry patches of flour and everything is uniformly moist. DO NOT knead the dough.
~ Cover the bowl with a lid that fits well but isn't airtight. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (flatten) which will take approx. 2 hours.
~ You can use the dough at this point if you like. I prefer to place it in the fridge and use it the next day.
To make the bread:
~ Prepare a baking sheet by sprinkling it with cornmeal to prevent the loaf from sticking.
~ Sprinkle the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1 lb. piece of dough (about the size of a grapefruit. Hold the mass of dough in your hand and add a little more flour so it won't stick to your hands. Shape the dough into a ball and place on the cookie sheet. This part of the bread making should take no more than 1 minute.
~ Allow the loaf to rest for 40-60 minutes (go about and play with your kids, make dinner, garden, walk the dog, do homework etc).
~ Twenty minutes before baking pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a rack in the middle of the oven for the bread. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on the bottom rack of the oven.
~ Dust the top of the loaf with flour and slash the top with a serrated knife.
~ Place the loaf into the oven. Add 1 cup of water to the broiler tray and close the oven to trap the steam. Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is nice and brown and firm to the touch.
~ Allow to cool before eating.
~ Store the remaining dough in your fridge for up to 10 days. You can also freeze 1 lb. balls of dough in an airtight container and defrost them overnight in the fridge prior to baking the next day.