One of the easiest and cheapest ways to move away from buying a lot of pre-made food is to bake your own bread. For some reason, we struggled against this for years, but our friend Jen recently turned us on to this recipe. The genius of it is upkeep. Make more dough when you run out so you always have it on hand. Then you can always have a loaf in the oven while you're preparing the rest of the meal. Also, you can make the loaves any size you want (though the recommended size seems to work perfectly for two people) so you don't end up with more bread than you really want. You can use it for pizza crust, naan, sammiches, croutons, bludgeons, etc.
Super Simple Homemade Bread
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1⁄2 tbsp granulated yeast (1 1⁄2 packets)
- 1 1⁄2 tbsp coarse kosher or sea salt
- 6 1⁄2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
- (baking/pizza stone)
What's awesome about this bread is that, if executed properly, it's a never-ending well of awesomeness. The key here is to always have more dough on hand. Each batch makes 4 medium-sizes loaves. So, when you make your last loaf--make more dough. Don't wait. Unless you want to wait later. The real key here is discipline. You can use the dough-scrapins from bowl as a starter for your next batch, for added power/glory/flavour.
So, to make the dough:
In a large mixing bowl (resealable/lidded is ideal), combine the yeast and salt with lukewarm water (in theory, 100 degrees Fahrenheit). We have a salt-based water softener which is why we just use warm-hot tap filtered tap water without any worry.
Mix in the flour both gently and gradually, in that order, with a wooden spoon. If necessary, you can use your hands to mix this but don't knead it. Though dough should still be a little wet.
Now comes that dread beast, the waiting game: cover the bowl with a towel and leave out at room temperature for 2 - 5 hours.
Your dough is now ready for use and/or storage! In theory, you want to refrigerate the dough for 3 hours or more before using; it makes the dough easier to work with. In a pinch though, we've used it immediately after two hours. The remaining dough can stay in the refrigerator for up to two weeks (in fact, the flavor "matures" over that time). Leave the lid to the container loose. You can double/triple/quintriple/etc this recipe with no adverse effects. Huzzah!
Time to bake it up!
Sprinkle cornmeal on a working surface (or pizza peal, if you have one). Cut off a grapefruit-sized piece of dough and sprinkle it with flour, stretching the dough out, but keeping it in its ball shape--sort of tucking the dough into the bottom of itself. Like an Escher drawing. This bread should look impossible. Place the ball on the working surface/peal and let sit for 40 minutes. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and set your timer.
After 20 minutes, put your baking stone and empty broiler/cake pan on the middle rack. Sprinkle flour on top of the loaf and slash 1/4 inch deep with a knife. You can do diagonal lines, little Xs, a hand making the metal sign \M/...
When you reach the final countdown, carefully slide the bread into the oven--you want this to happen in one motion, so you'll need to perform some sort of zombie-jerk-motion.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. After a loaf or two, you'll have a good sense of exactly how much time your particular oven requires. And don't be too hasty here. I know it looks delicious, but let the bread cool down at least a little so it firms up and you can cut it.
You can use this dough for pizza crust, naan bread, dinner rolls, etc--merely by shaping it differently. Naan and pizza involve rolling the dough out. Dinner rolls involve making small oblong balls. Experiment here--it's hard to produce something that isn't good. After a few days (if by some miracle you fail to eat it--usually the result of making too many loaves at once) you can cut the bread into small pieces; brush/douse with olive oil, garlic powder, and herbs; and toast/bake on high for about 5 minutes to make croutons.