Contrary to the plethora of diets in the universe, there are still millions of people who haven’t gone gluten-free. Bread is still the staple food in the average diet, and probably always will be. I predict it makes a comeback among trendy people, much like the frosted cupcake. (Anyone agree that cupcakes all of a sudden became hip? I mean, for a while there it was like every party had Vampire Weekend and cupcakes.) But it’s expensive to buy the good loaves, and most affordable store-bought varieties are high in processed sugar and bleach. So it’s worth it—both economically and yummily—to learn how to make your own bread, and it’s not hard.
Must I list off all the reasons why homemade bread is far tastier than store-bought? Not to mention it’s better for you—and you know what’s in it (no nasty preservatives or bleach which are more common than you might think, even in all-natural brands.) And for those interested in the eco-friendly aspects, baking your own bread saves a trip to the grocery store. I’ll share with you my favorite recipe, which I originally got from Mark Bittman, and redesigned as my own. Which means, less scientific. Slacker bread, if you will, for the baker on the go. All you need is a simple supply of flour, water, salt, and yeast.
3 Easy Steps to Making The Best Bread Ever
- Combine 4 cups unbleached, white flour, 1 teaspoon baking yeast, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1.5 cups water. Mush around in a bowl until it forms a shaggy dough ball. Use your hands; don’t be afraid! Let sit, covered with a piece of foil or plastic, for three hours (save the foil to re-use the next time you bake bread.)
- Once it’s risen, form into a round ball (using a little bit of loose flour on your hands, as it can be sticky) and plop on an un-greased baking sheet (with the smoothest side facing up). Take a sharp knife and make 3 decorative slashes on the top (to allow air to escape, and to look profesh.) Put in 450 degree preheated oven for twenty minutes, then lower to 350 for another thirty. I put a ceramic dish of water in the oven, too, which makes the bread crusty on the outside, soft on the inside.
- Once the bread is ready, it’ll look browned and if you tap the bottom it should sound hollow. Let sit on the countertop until it cools. Remember: don’t cut it until cooled, because the inside of the loaf is still cooking even while outside of the oven. Serve with butter and honey, or jam, or whatever…
Making bread is addictive! The next step is building your own masonry bread oven, which you can do with friends on the weekend, either on your lawn or in your community garden. Daniel Wing and the late Alan Scott, authors of The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens, provide expert advice on baking bread and building masonry ovens. Wing, for example, travels around in a gypsy bread oven wagon of his own construction, baking loaves at parties. This could be you!