If you’ve been following along this runnaroundd life for more than a few days, you know I’m no Julia Child. No Guy Fieri. No Rachael Ray. Not even close. So, today I’m handing over my blog to one of my most favorite, special ladies, Ellie. She is here to give you a bread recipe you cannot live without. Like, you’re gonna wanna pin this sucker right now. She has a friendly, warm soul that you’ll fall in love with. Here she is….
Allow me to introduce myself: I’m Ellie and in real life I hail from the Midwest but in internet life I blog over at Hither & Yon. My lovely host Lindsay is a friend from before she graced the Internet with her runnaroundd presence. :) We met through my sister what feels like ages ago when they both lived in Ohio for a quick minute. Though she has long since moved to sunny Florida, I’m glad we’ve stayed in touch. Her passion for chasing down her dreams and maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle is a huge inspiration!
Anyway, aside from blogging, one of my biggest passions is baking. I’ve developed a real interest in breadmaking over the last couple of years, particularly during a small stint working at a bakery in Boston. Breadmaking generally receives a bad rap for being either too complicated or too time-consuming. While that can definitely be the case, there is a wealth of easy recipes out there for the casual home cook.
Today I want you to throw out all your preconceived notions of baking bread. Put away the bread machine and don’t even think about dragging out a stand mixer. Adapted from For the Feast (a cooking blog), this is hands down the easiest recipe that produces a simple, hearty loaf. You can serve it with a fancy meal, simply enjoy it with your favorite nut butter, or even use it as a bread bowl for soup .
I call it the Rustic Italian Loaf.
All you need are six ingredients:
1 pkg active dry yeast (or 2-¼ tsp if you are using a jar)
1 cup warm water (Not too hot or it will kill the yeast. You want it to feel like tepid bathwater.), plus more as needed
3 cups flour (all purpose, wheat, blend, whatever you have on hand)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Arguably the hardest step is the first: proof the yeast.
We do this by stirring the yeast into the cup of warm water. It looks gross and clumpy but we’re going to let nature do its work for about 13 minutes. Just let it sit there, looking funky and suspicious.
While the yeast is waking up, mix together your dry ingredients in a large bowl. I call it the 3-2-1 rule. Three cups flour, 2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt.
That will take you all of 30 seconds so feel free to check Facebook, do some stretches, or just lay on the couch and look out the window while you wait for the yeast.
When it’s ready, it will look pretty much the same as it did 13 minutes ago, maybe slightly more foamy. Give it a stir to break up any remaining clumps and then pour it into the flour mixture.
Use a spoon, fork, spatula, literally whatever you feel like using to begin to mix the ingredients together. It will start to come together and look like this:
At this point it’s tough to use a spoon so I just roll up my sleeves and start kneading by hand. It’s just a touch too dry, so I add a little more warm water. Just a splash at a time and keep kneading. If it is too wet, it will make horrible squelching noises when you knead it and will look a little like this:
No worries though, this is foolproof, I’m telling you! Just grab a pinch of flour and work it in until it’s the right texture. You want it to be smooth and slightly sticky. By this I mean as you are working it with your hands, the dough will stick to your fingers a little but you are able to tuck it back in and pat it all into a little ball. It should look something like this when you’re done:
Now pop your little dough baby back in the bowl and cover it with a thin towel. Put the bowl in a warm place and let rise for an hour.
Now go back to your stretches or laundry or laying on the floor. You do you, ok?
When that’s done, check on your dough. It should have about doubled in size. If your kitchen is cold as a tomb and it hasn’t done much, pop it into the oven, turn it on to the lowest setting and leave the door ajar if possible. Check back after 15 minutes and you should see improvement.
Now, if you’re in a hurry and this is all you have time for, you can skip this next step and proceed directly to baking.
But it’s worth it to wait, friends. The best texture comes from letting the dough rise twice.
Punch the dough down, that’s right, just stick your fist right up in its face (super satisfying) and let the air out.
Now apologize, because that was very rude. Pick the dough up out of the bowl and gently mold it into a ball again. Leave to rise for about 30 more minutes.
It won’t get as big this time, but that’s ok because it will puff up to its full glory in the oven.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking sheet (or use parchment paper if you’re so inclined) and pop Dough Baby right on top. Now is the time to shape it however you like. For a bread bowl, I would leave it as round as possible. For a more traditional loaf, shape it into an elongated oval with tapered, rounded ends. Be aware that because this is a flat surface, it will spread out a bit while baking.
Brush the top and sides with the olive oil.
If you want to get fancy, now is the time to do so. It tastes amazing plain but there are so many variations you could try. For Italian style, I suggest sprinkling the loaf with some rosemary and garlic salt. If you have breakfast in mind, mix up some cinnamon and sugar and add that with some roasted walnut pieces. In this case, I went with coarse sea salt, pepitas, and sunflower seeds.
Finally, for that “fresh from the bakery” touch, take a sharp knife and score the top of the loaf at a 45 degree angle.
Now bake it in the oven for anywhere from 25-30 minutes. When it’s done, it will be a delightful golden brown and give a hollow thump when you tap the bottom.
And here is a plain loaf I made last week:
Oh you lovely thing.
Now if you can stand it, slice into it while still warm and enjoy the heck out of your creation. Or if you’re a better person than me, wrap it up in a paper bag and take it to a friend’s house to share. They will be crazy impressed with your mad skills.
[Printable recipe found here]
From Lindsay: Have a great day, friends. And make sure you follow my gluten goddess, Ellie :) She’s kind of fabulous, yes? :)