It’s been a decade since I began to make and bake my own bread at home. I haven’t made anything too adventurous – crusty loaves of bread, pizza dough, pita bread, Koulouria. I’d like to make a good loaf for sandwich bread and that’s a project in the near future. In the meantime, I continue to enjoy making artisan-style bread, the kind of bread you find at the Italian/Greek/French bakery.
The inspiration and spark that ignited this passion for bread making is owed to Zoe and Jeff, co-authors of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes. The success of the first book was immense and the overwhelming demand for healthier bread brought about the release of Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. First thing’s first: it takes more than five minutes to bake this sexy, gorgeous loaves of bread but don’t that to discourage you. Making bread is easy, the first loaves you will make (like I did) will be very good but they will also need improvement. It’s all in the feel of the dough.
(recipe based on Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes master recipe)
2 1/2 Tbsp. instant dry yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp. coarse sea salt
3 1/2 cups of warm/tepid water
6 1/2 cups of all-purpose unbleached flour
+ extra flour for work surface
coarse corn flour or semolina flour
Pre-heated 500F oven
- In a large bowl or pail, add your salt, yeast and warm water and stir. Allow for the yeast to activate. After a couple of minutes, add your flour and mix with a large wooden spoon (or use the paddle on your mixer). When the water has been absorbed by the flour, the dough might still be too dry. Add up to another 1/2 cup of tepid water. The dough should feel smooth and not too sticky. Cover but allow an opening so that the gases may escape as the dough rises. You may use the dough to make bread after a minimum of two hours. Ideally, make the dough before you go to bed and form and bake the bread the next morning.
- When you’re ready to form your bread, sprinkle some flour on top of the dough and on your hands. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface as well. Grab a piece of dough and cut it off. Using your fingers, stretch the dough outwards and then fold under the center of the dough for 2-3 minutes. You should now have a smooth round ball of dough. You may keep this shape to make a “boule” style loaf or you may form into a longer loaf, tapered at the ends with your hands. Another shape you can make is a baguette. Roll the dough into a rectangular flat and then roll up into a cylindrical shape. Place your formed dough on your work surface and sprinkle each loaf with all purpose flour.
- You must allow the dough to rest and rise for at least 45 minutes (uncovered). Pre-heat your oven and sprinkle some coarse corn flour on your pizza stone’s surface. Place the stone on the middle rack of your oven. Now sprinkle some corn flour on your pizza peel’s surface and place as many loaves as will fit onto it.
- Once your oven has reached 50oF, add some hot water into a broil pan and place it on the highest position in your oven. Now using a serrated knife, make slices into the tops of your bread (a cross, three parallel lines or one long slash and then slide the loaves off your pizza peel and onto the stone in the oven.
- Bake your loaves for 10 minutes then lower the temperature to 450F and bake for another 20 minutes or umtil just the tops of the bread are golden-brown. Carefully remove your loaves from the oven and place on a cooling rack are they have cooled to room temperature. Your bread is ready to eat!
*If you can’t find a pizza stone in your area, square terra cotta tiles can be placed on your rack. Go to a gardening/landscaping store and ask to see the squares tiles and make sure they have haven’t been treated with any chemicals (merely baked). Fill the area of your oven rack with inverted tiles and you have a great alternative to a pizza stone!
*You can make bread without any of the abovementioned tools. Form the loaves, place on parchment-lined baking trays and place in the oven when the dough is ready.
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