My most rewarding project was making bread. I love bread...lots of kinds of bread. Which, if you ask my mom, is kind of a surprise. When I was little, I hated bread. I hated eating at Subway because there was so much BREAD in the dang sandwiches. I wanted the crusts cut off my wonder bread because there was just tooooo much bread in my sandwich. Toast? No. Bagels? Gross. Don't even talk to me about rolls. Why. No.
Now? Hand me that loaf and keep your fingers out of the way! Om nom nom. When I worked at Fort Michilimackinac, I learned how to make all sorts of breads--quick breads, yeast breads, round breads, sweet breads, oaty breads...all tasty! There was just something magical about popping a raw, floury, doughy lump in a big cast iron pot, shoveling bits of smoldering wood on top, and then lifting the lid an hour later to find a beautiful, fluffy, golden loaf. Science? Magic? Doesn't matter! Pass the butter.
I used to make bread a lot when I lived with my parents. When they renovated their kitchen, they specifically designed their breakfast bar to sit a little higher than a normal counter top so that my dad could make bread on it, so it was an optimal height and width for kneading dough. Now, at my own place, I have very little counter space and a lot of random clutter...so not a lot of space to splash down some flour and go six rounds with some yeast. Also, I'm super impatient and I don't like the fact that yeast is extremely selfish and takes FOREVER to rise--twice! Then, I found this recipe:
Simply So Good Crusty Bread
See the original blog post here!
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon Instant or Rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 cups water
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 - 18 hours. Overnight works great. Heat oven to 450 degrees. When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating. Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough. Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.
As far as I can figure, this really is a foolproof bread. Seriously; you dump your stuff in a bowl, leave it alone for half a day, and then throw it in the oven (more or less). Forty-five minutes later, you have fresh, homemade bread with a crispy crust and delicious chewy inside. And, as you can see in the linked post, it's easy to add stuff--I currently have a batch of rosemary-garlic at home on my stove, waiting for me to get home and bake it. How easy is that?!
I'm happy to report that the first experimental loaf barely lasted the weekend. I took it over to my folks' house for a visit and came home with the last couple of slices in a plastic baggie. It's just really good bread!