For you, Houston, my bread recipe

“How do you make that bread? How do you have time to make all that bread? Do you have a bread machine? How do you make that bread? What is the recipe, why don’t you ever give me the recipe?” We hear this at lunch all the time as we pull out our delectable sandwiches and watch our students eat microwaved boxes of tiny portions, or styrofoam plates from Sammy’s. Well, maybe it’s time to give something back to Houston since I won’t be here to answer all your questions, so here is my bread recipe.

You probably think I’ve been difficult about giving it out. Maybe you think it is a secret. It isn’t. It’s just that measuring is not a big part of my kitchen repertoire (something you probably guessed from my pumpkin-dal-salsa-mashed potato-peanut butter recipe on the potluck entry). But for you, for once, I did the measuring. I will hasten to add that you can change almost anything about this recipe so long as you have a very sticky dough you stir a couple times, never knead, and wait at least 10, and preferably 24 – 36 hours before baking, or even longer if your house is very cold. This isn’t PCR, after all. If it is cold, you might want to add a little yeast after a day or so, if it isn’t rising and bubbling.

OK, I prefer recipes that use weights and I have a cheap little handy scale. You put a bowl on it, tare it, and add away. Taring is cool. It resets the zero so you don’t have to worry about the weight of the bowl. The US seems to use volume, and Europe uses weight, so I’ll put the weights in metric, the volumes in English, either works.

The deal with flour is it comes with different moisture levels, so it just isn’t possible to give perfect quantities. I use organic white flour from Costco, and then add either whole wheat or rye flour. The recipe below has a lot of white, which is what my family prefers, but you can make it with all whole wheat also. It has less salt than a lot of recipes. After all Tuscan bread has no salt at all.

Joan’s never knead, super easy bread, adapted from the New York Times recipe.

5 cups water;

1 teaspoon salt (5 grams);

pinch yeast, maybe 1/16 teaspoon, so little it wouldn’t show up on any home balance

7 c (1 kg) flour

1 c (150g) whole wheat or rye flour

Mix everything together in a large bowl or pot, stirring with a wooden spoon. The dough should be moist, damp, sticky, way too wet to knead. The people that know say in a wet dough, left long enough, the gluten molecules align them-ownselves instead of being beaten into it by kneading. If your dough is too dry, add water, too wet, add flour.

Leave this for a day or two. It should smell good and sour before baking. The baking method is important.

Put covered glass or ceramic casseroles in the oven to preheat, at the oven’s highest temperature, about 550 degrees Farenheit, in my case.

When they are hot, take them out carefully, and remove the lids. Put some flour in the bottom, or some baking parchment, and pour or scrape the dough in.

Bake about 55 minutes at the highest temperature possible, not broil.

Remove from oven, shake out of the containers, cool, and eat with butter!

Yum.

We just leave the loaves out on the counter.

Don’t throw out the old dry bread. Soak it in water, and then save the squeezed out crumbs in the freezer, and make panzanella or pappa al pomodoro.

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I don’t wash the bowl very often, so some bacteria stay in the crust.

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That is a scant teaspoon of salt, and such a tiny pinch of yeast.

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See how wet the dough is?

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The hot glass bread container for baking.

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The dough poured in, on top of some Danish baking parchment.

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The bread is done!

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It was a great loaf. The large bubbles mean the dough rose slowly, from little yeast, and had time to develop flavor.

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Soaked crumbs from the old loaf, with the water squeezed out, ready for the freezer, and future dishes. Never waste bread, as my old Swiss uncle told me once.

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About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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