I was going to make chocolate frogs this month, but my chocolate mold didn’t get here in time and I also really wanted to make bread. So I made bread! And I just so happened to be reading Ava Lavender at the same time so it worked out great.
So for those of you that don’t know, in the book Ava’s grandmother runs the town bakery where she makes delicious bread in the old-fashioned stone oven.
Also, I apologize for the totally awful quality of the photographs: I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Our kitchen has the most horrible lighting. It has, like, one window, and that window is mostly blocked by our garage.
So, I’m using this recipe, mostly because it’s pretty foolproof and also because I was tired and wanted something easy.
Three quick things about this recipe: one is that you want to measure your flour by weight, and not by cups. It’s safer that way, because the water-to-flour ratio is super important. Two is that this recipe makes a lot of bread but the bread doesn’t keep that well, so if you make it, make sure you have something to do with this bread. And, finally, you don’t want to skimp on the rising time, because if you do the bread will turn out super dense and unless you dip it in soup or something it won’t taste that great.
But with those things out of the way…onwards!
Measure out the floor. Kitchen scales are your best friend with baking. Just don’t let them out of your sight or you little brother might use them to see how much his lizard weighs.
Measure out your lukewarm water and yeast. The recipe says that it’s fine to mix the yeast and water in the flour without letting the yeast sit, first. And that may be fine for instant yeast, but because I use active dry yeast I figured it would be safer to add the yeast to the water first before adding it to the flour. I let it sit for maybe three minutes then added it to the flour bowl.
Mix everything together to make a rough, very sticky dough. I forgot how much of a pain it is to mix dough by hand, so I wouldn’t recommend it. If you have a stand mixer, use it. Your forearms will thank you.
Drop your dough into a large (very large!) bowl. You can grease it first if you want to. I didn’t, and it was fine. Cover top of the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temp for two hours.
Once the dough has risen, place bowl in the fridge and let rise for another two hours. The recipe says that depending on how long you leave it in the fridge, the taste will be different. Apparently if you leave this dough in the fridge for a week it will taste like sourdough.
I left it in overnight. If you take the dough out and it’s fallen, that’s fine. It’s what it’s supposed to do.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If you’re using a baking stone, place it in the oven before you preheat it.If you don’t have a baking stone, you can use a regular baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Take a shallow, cast iron or metal lipped pan and place it on the bottom rack of the oven. Again, you want it to be in the oven while the oven preheats.
Take 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough and shape into a rough ball. You can get fancy with shapes if you want too, but I more grabbed a hunk and tossed it in the direction of the parchment paper. That’s fine, too.
Sprinkle flour over the top to prevent it from drying out while it rises. Let rise at room temp for one to two hours.
Once risen, cut three 1/2 inch deep slashes in the dough. Place dough on baking stone/sheet and place in oven.
Pour one cup of hot water into the lipped pan. The water will steam and bubble up, so you want to close the oven door as quickly as you can. PLACE DOUGH IN THE OVEN BEFORE YOU DO THIS.
Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it’s golden brown. Let the bread cool at room temp on a wire rack. Store in a sealed container at room temperature.
This bread doesn’t make great sandwich bread, really, but it does make good toast. My favorite way to use it, though, is as bread that I dip in soup; because it’s mildly flavored but not totally tasteless, has a thick crust, and holds up well.
Blogglings, do you have any requests on what recipes you want to see next? Have you ever made homemade bread before? If so, how’d it turn out?