my father fell ill some years before I was born, the pain
would keep him awake at night. To pass the hours, he began
process soothed him. Calmed him. Took his mind off his
troubles. And then, when the pain passed, he had a nice loaf
of freshly baked bread to share and enjoy.
homemade bread is an art that has been lost to a lot of us
in recent years ó even my father gave it up after he was
cured. It can be time-consuming and inconvenient, and if
there is one overarching trend for the last, oh, century or
so, it has been a movement toward greater convenience.
can just pick up a simple loaf at a grocery store or a more
complexly flavored, crusty loaf for somewhat more money at a
bakery. But it is never the same as baking it yourself.
among people who still regularly bake bread at home, the
trend has been toward convenience. Jim Laheyís recipe for
no-knead bread swept the nation several years ago, and more
recently there was interest given to a recipe that can be
made and baked in one hour.
still, there are some of us who persist (occasionally, in my
case) in making bread the old-fashioned way. It just tastes
better when it comes out of your own oven ó if you have
mixed it, kneaded it, let it rise, punched it down, proofed
it and baked it yourself.
said, the no-knead recipe is awfully good.
we begin, a pointer. Bread flour has more protein than other
flours, so the results are denser and chewier; bread baked
with bread flour is the equivalent of pasta cooked al dente.
But if you donít have bread flour, donít sweat it ó
all-purpose flour, which has a little less protein, is
almost as good.
have never baked bread before it is probably best to start
at the beginning, with a loaf of old-fashioned white bread.
This is what bread used to be like before mass production
robbed it of its soul. It goes with everything, makes great
sandwiches and even better toast.
an Old-Fashioned White Loaf, which is old-fashioned in the
sense that it is like bread before supermarkets began mass
producing it and making it squishy. If you donít know what
old-fashioned bread is like, or have forgotten, this example
may startle you. It has a full, round, deep flavor.
it isnít overpowering. This is terrific bread to toast or
to spread with butter or jam or peanut butter. Or anything,
next two types of bread I made took longer because they
benefit immensely from the use of a sponge. A sponge is a
mixture of flour, yeast and water that sits for at least
several hours. During that time it begins to ferment,
creating a marvelously complex, hearty flavor and a hint of
a sour tang.
longer the sponge ferments, the stronger the taste ó and
as a side benefit, the less yeast you have to use.
Mediterranean Country-Style Bread I made took three days
from start to finish, but the first two were spent making
the sponge, which took little effort or time.
loaves (the recipe makes two, but you could always freeze
one) use about four parts of all-purpose flour to two parts
of either barley, rye or whole-wheat flours. I used the rye,
because I like rye, and the rye flavor was pronounced in the
finished product. Barley or whole-wheat flours would
contribute decidedly different nuances, and one of the great
advantages of this recipe is that you can use it to create
three distinct breads.
our taste testers who particularly loves rye bread said it
was one of the best loaves of rye bread she had ever had.
contrast to that bread, the Hearty Country Loaf took a
relatively zippy two days to make, and I only spent a couple
of minutes making the sponge on the first day.
one may have been my favorite of the breads I made. Although
it is predominantly made from bread flour, it also uses
whole-wheat and rye flours for an extraordinary depth of
flavor. And it even looks as good as it tastes. With its
large, round shape lightly marked with indentations from the
basket in which it was proofed (allowed to rise a second
time) and the distinctive X cut into the top just before
baking, you canít tell the difference between it and a
loaf you would find at a local bakery. A good local bakery.
I made a bread that essentially qualifies as dessert. Kolach
is a traditional, special-occasion bread from Eastern Europe
that is often brought out for oneís patron saint day. It
makes a simply gorgeous loaf ó it is braided and then the
braid is coiled ó and is topped with whole nuts for an
extra festive flair.
the great looks would be wasted if it were not also
delicious. This is a light but rich bread, filled with
butter and egg yolks and just enough lemon to shine through.
Itís like challah, but not as sweet.
with butter and a little honey. Then see if you donít
reach for another slice.
2 large 2-pound loaves
sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
cup granulated sugar
teaspoons minced lemon zest
teaspoon lemon juice
cups hot milk, 120 to 130 degrees
6 1/2 cups bread or all-purpose flour, divided
packages dry yeast
yolk, beaten, mixed with 1 tablespoon milk
cup whole nuts, your choice
the bowl of a stand mixer (or by hand), cream the butter,
egg yolks, sugar, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix the
milk with the butter and yolk mixture. Add 2 cups of the
flour. Add the yeast. Stir to blend well.
When the batter is smooth, add the rest of the flour, 1/2
cup at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition,
until the dough forms a mass that can be lifted out of the
bowl in one ball. Place dough on a floured work surface to
Knead the dough with an aggressive push-turn-fold motion, or
use the dough hook on a mixer, for 10 minutes or until the
dough is smooth and elastic. At this point it should not
stick to the work surface or the sides of the mixer bowl.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover tightly with
plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature until doubled
in bulk, about 1 hour (if using fast-rising yeast, it should
take about half as long).
When the dough has risen, turn out onto a floured work
surface and divide in half. Divide each half into 3 equal
parts. With the palms of your hands, roll each part into a
rope about 24 inches long. Braid 3 ropes at a time. Place
the braids on a baking sheet and coil them. Tuck the end of
the braid into the coil so that it doesnít break loose as
the dough rises. With your hands, gently push the coils into
a symmetrical shape.
Cover the 2 coils with parchment paper or a cloth and set
aside at room temperature until the dough doubles in bulk,
about 50 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brush the loaves with the egg-milk glaze and carefully push
the nuts into a pattern over the top of the loaves. Bake 1
hour until golden and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on
the bottom. If you canít fit both loaves on a single
baking sheet, bake each loaf separately ó place the
reserved loaf in the refrigerator or cool place while the
first loaf bakes. Cool 10 minutes on the baking sheet before
placing the loaves on a metal rack to continue cooling.
serving (based on 40): 162 calories; 9 g fat; 5 g saturated
fat; 43 mg cholesterol; 3 g protein; 18 g carbohydrate; 2 g
sugar; 1 g fiber; 67 mg sodium; 26 mg calcium.
from "The Complete Book of Breads," by Bernard
2 loaves, about 1 1/4 pounds each
very warm, almost hot, water
teaspoon active dry yeast
11 cups all-purpose white flour, divided
tablespoons sea salt
cups tepid water, divided
barley, rye or whole-wheat flour
2 to 3
tablespoons cornmeal or coarse semolina, as needed
This recipe is made over 3 days.
the very warm water in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the
yeast over it, and stir briefly with a wooden spoon to
distribute the yeast through the water. Add 2 cups of the
white flour, stir to mix well, cover with plastic wrap, and
set aside in a cool place (50 to 70 degrees) to rise
next day, uncover the bowl and add the salt, 1 cup of the
tepid water and the barley, rye or whole wheat flour. Stir
or mix thoroughly with your hands. Cover the bowl again,
return to a cool place, and let it rise overnight.
the third day, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups tepid water and
about 7 cups white flour. Begin kneading in the bowl, then
sprinkle a little flour over a wooden pastry board or
countertop and turn the dough out. Knead thoroughly at least
10 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until you have a
smooth, elastic dough. Rinse the mixing bowl, dry it, dust
it with flour and put the dough back in. Cover with plastic
wrap and set aside at room temperature to rise until it has
increased in volume about 2 1/2 times ó about 2 to 3
Turn the dough out on the lightly floured board, punch it
down, and knead briefly just to knock any air holes out.
Form into 2 round or long loaves and place them on baking
sheets (if youíre not using a baking stone) or on a wooden
peel that has been lightly sprinkled with cornmeal or
semolina. Set aside in a warm place (70 degrees or more) to
rise rapidly, 30 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size.
youíre using a baking stone, set it in the cold oven and
preheat to 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes. If youíre
using a baking sheet and no stone, simply preheat the oven
to 500 degrees. When youíre ready to bake, slash the tops
of the loaves with a very sharp knife in 3 or 4 places.
Quickly slide the loaves into the oven, directly onto the
hot stone if youíre using it, and bake 15 minutes. Turn
down the heat to 350 degrees and bake 35 more minutes.
When the bread is done and the crust is golden brown, remove
the loaves from the oven and let them cool on a rack.
serving (based on 40): 130 calories; no fat; no saturated
fat; no cholesterol; 4 g protein; 27 g carbohydrate; no
sugar; 2 g fiber; 290 mg sodium; 8 mg calcium.
from "The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook," by
Nancy Harmon Jenkins
1 large round loaf
teaspoon instant yeast
cups water at room temperature, divided
cups bread flour, divided
whole wheat flour
cup rye flour
This bread takes 2 days to make
the sponge: In a medium bowl, stir the yeast into 1 cup of
the room-temperature water until dissolved. Mix in 1 cup of
the bread flour and the whole wheat flour with a rubber
spatula to create a stiff, wet dough. Cover with plastic
wrap; let sit at room temperature for at least 5 hours or
the dough: Use a rubber spatula to mix the remaining 3 1/2
cups bread flour, rye flour, the remaining 1 1/3 cups tepid
water, honey and the sponge from step 1 in the bowl of a
standing mixer. Attach the dough hook and knead the dough at
the lowest speed until the dough is smooth, about 15
minutes, adding the salt during the final 3 minutes (see
note at end if kneading by hand). If the dough looks dry
after the salt is added, add water in 1-tablespoon
increments every 30 seconds until a smooth consistency is
reached. Transfer the dough to a very lightly oiled large
bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until tripled in
size, at least 2 hours.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust the
top of the dough and your hands with flour. Lightly press
the dough into a round by folding the edges of the dough
into the middle from the top, right, bottom and left,
sequentially, then gathering it loosely together. Transfer
the dough, smooth-side down, to a colander or basket lined
with heavily floured muslin or linen. Cover loosely with a
large sheet of aluminum foil; let the dough rise until
almost doubled in size, at least 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position
and place a large baking stone on the rack. Adjust the other
rack to the lowest position and place a small empty baking
pan on it. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
Cover a peel or the back of a large baking sheet with a
large piece of parchment paper. Invert the dough onto the
peel and remove the muslin. Use a single-edge razor blade or
sharp knife to cut a large X about 1/2-inch deep into the
top of the dough. With scissors, trim the excess parchment
around the dough.
Slide the dough, still on the parchment, from the peel onto
the stone; remove the peel with a quick backward jerk. Pour
2 cups hot tap water into the heated pan on the bottom rack,
being careful to avoid the steam. Bake until an instant-read
thermometer inserted in the bottom of the bread reads 210
degrees and the crust is dark brown, 35 to 40 minutes,
turning the bread after 25 minutes if it is not browning
evenly. Turn the oven off, open the door and let the bread
remain in the oven 10 minutes longer. Remove, then cool to
room temperature before slicing, about 2 hours. To crisp the
crust, place the cooled bread in a 450-degree oven for 10
kneading by hand: Make the sponge as directed. Place the
sponge and 1 1/2 cups of the bread flour, the rye flour, the
remaining 1 1/3 cups tepid water, honey and salt in a large
bowl. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth,
about 5 minutes. Work in the remaining 2 cups bread flour
and then turn out onto a floured work surface. Knead by hand
for 5 minutes, incorporating no more than an additional 1/4
cup flour as you work. The dough will be very wet and
sticky. Proceed with the recipe.
serving (based on 20): 148 calories; 1g fat; no saturated
fat; no cholesterol; 5 g protein; 31 g carbohydrate; 2 g
sugar; 2 g fiber; 234mg sodium; 8 mg calcium.
from "Baking Illustrated," by the editors of Cookís
1 medium loaf
cup warm water, 110 to 115 degrees
teaspoon granulated sugar
tablespoon active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet)
warm whole milk, 110 to 115 degrees
tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
bread flour or all-purpose flour
Place the water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl and whisk
to blend. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes, or until
the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. In a medium
bowl, whisk together the warm milk and melted butter.
Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix
for 1 minute on medium speed to blend. Add the yeast mixture
and milk mixture and mix on medium speed just until the
dough comes together, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with
plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free cotton towel, and let the
dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate
before further kneading. Turn the speed to medium-low and
continue to knead until the dough is firm, elastic and
smooth, 3 to 6 minutes. (To mix by hand, mix the flour and
salt in a large bowl, add the yeast mixture and milk
mixture, and mix until a dough forms. Turn the dough out
onto a work surface and knead until firm, elastic and
smooth, about 8 to 10 minutes).
Lightly oil a large bowl, scrape the dough into the bowl and
lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little oil.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free cotton
towel and let the dough rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes
(longer if the room is cold). If you are using a glass or
see-through plastic bowl, be sure to mark the starting level
of the dough with a pencil or piece of tape so itís easy
to tell when the dough has doubled.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.
Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air
bubbles, but donít knead the dough again or it will be too
springy and difficult to shape (if this happens, simply
cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free
cotton towel and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes to give
the gluten some time to relax).
Shape the dough into a loaf by pressing it into a flattened
rectangle whose sides are a couple of inches shorter than
the long sides of a loaf pan. Arrange the dough so a long
side is parallel to the edge of your work surface. Fold the
long side opposite you up into the center of the rectangle;
fold the long side near you into the center, pressing the
edges together with the heel of your hand. Turn the dough 90
degrees and roll the short side opposite you toward the
center, rolling it as tightly as you can. When you reach the
bottom edge closest to you, pinch the final seam closed. The
dough should be the same length as your loaf pan.
Lightly coat the loaf pan with melted butter or an oil spray
(not olive). Place the dough, seam-side down, in the pan.
Lightly oil the top of the dough to keep it moist. Cover the
pan loosely with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free cotton
towel, and allow the dough to rise again until its top is
1/2 to 1 inch above the rim of the pan, 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and position an oven rack in
the center. Brush the top of the loaf with a thin film of
the beaten egg. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the bread
is golden brown and the internal temperature registers 200
degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a rack
to cool completely.
serving (based on 16): 115 calories; 3 g fat; 1 g saturated
fat; 17 mg cholesterol; 4 g protein; 19 g carbohydrate; 1 g
sugar; 1 g fiber; 230 mg sodium; 23 mg calcium.
from "The Art & Soul of Baking," by Cindy