Loaf #3: Artisan Bread (& My New Friend)

As mentioned in 2 of my recent posts, I have had quite the run with loaf making. This post is about classic artisan bread, or “crusty bread” as we call it in my house.

During the pandemic there has been much talk about sourdough bread making (and vegetable gardening, and house projects, and many of the *silver linings* to a stay-at-home order). Though my yard was neglected and my house didn’t get any make overs, I sure have made a lot of bread. Lainey, my older daughter wanted to learn to bake bread. So, we started with the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day recipe. It’s tasty bread, extremely simple, and the best part is that you make the dough and then have 5 loaves of dough in-waiting in your fridge. You then can peel what you want– rest, rise, and bake.

I was telling my friend Jenny that we were making lots of bread and she mentioned the New York Times popular recipe. She warned me that it is super simple, but requires a long wait time. She wasn’t kidding. The process stretches over 20 hours. It’s delicious bread and has a nice crust and crumb, though the dough is very wet and challenging to handle. She then sent me the quicker version of the same recipe, for days when you didn’t plan 20 hours ahead. It does the trick!

It has now become our go-to and I have worked out some of the challenges of the wet dough transfer. It dawned on me to see if other readers had had the same challenges. And I saw that there were gobs of comments, and thankfully I was not the only one who struggled. I took some of their suggestions and tried different tricks and tips. I have found a way that is working for me, so this recipe is New York Times recipe with my tips added.

Speedy No-Knead Bread by Mark Bittman in The New York Times

Time: 45 minutes, plus 4 1/2 hours’ rising

3 cups bread flour (or all purpose)

1 packet (1/4 ounce) or 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups slightly warm water

Oil and cornmeal as needed

Combine flour, yeast and salt in the large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Lightly oil a work surface and place dough on it; (dust with flour if super sticky); fold it over on itself once or twice. Place on a piece of parchment sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover loosely with plastic wrap on top and let rest 30 minutes more.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6-to-8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, (with oven mitt on) remove lid from the pot, carefully lift the parchment into the pot, and return lid on top. Close oven.

Bake with lid on pot for 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack. Bread will stay good for a couple of days if in a sealed container or ziplock bag. Freezes well if thoroughly sealed.

Also, a couple of months ago I discovered Kendra Adachi and her Lazy Genius Way. If you haven’t already followed her on Instagram or listened to her podcast, or bought her newly published book, you should do yourself a favor and do these things!

She feels like a wise friend that I need in my life- posing good questions, helping me get “genius” about the things that matter to me, and giving me permission to let go of things that don’t. It’s been helpful for me, as a perfectionist, one who is hard on myself, and often overwhelmed in my own brain. I feel the lack of these kinds of conversations in real life during these pandemic days: in the doorway at work, in the hallway at church, at dinner with friends- all of which are not happening much. Sometimes when I feel lonely, I pull up the podcast and spend 20 minutes “hanging out with my friend the Lazy Genius”- and listen to her talk about list-making, parenting, or holiday-planning while I do laundry or sweep the floors and I feel inspired and less alone. I usually have to stop what I’m doing to jot down some notes, lest my heart brain forgets.

I have been wanting to give a shout out to the Lazy Genius, but didn’t know what post it fit with and then this week I heard her podcast about starting a hobby (so insightful and clarifying) and she shared that bread-making is a hobby she is pursuing! I look forward to learning alongside her. For now, until she (or you) teach me another way to bake bread that is easy and quick and delicious, I will be making the New York Times Speedy No-Knead Bread.

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