Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fresh Baked Bread

Nothing says, I've been slaving away in the kitchen for hours on end to make the perfect Thanksgiving meal because I'm a domestic goddess, quite like baking your own fresh bread.  The awesome thing?  It's so easy!  Come along...

My nearest and dearest friend Lauren, introduced me to this recipe she found at Steamy Kitchen.  It's such a simple recipe, Jaden has her four year old son do it!  PS - could he get ANY cuter?  What a heartbreaker.

Anyway, I decided to make my friend Lauren do it.  A four year old and Lauren have quite a lot in common, including a general resistance to direction and the overall desire to throw flour around.  I can say those things about her because she is a womb to tomb, birth to earth kinda friend (any West Side Story fans out there?) and since she lives only a block away, she puts up with my nonsense regularly.

Start with these four simple ingredients:

Bread Flour
Instant Yeast
Sea Salt (or kosher salt)
Warm Water


In your large mixing bowl of flour, sprinkle your yeast around. 

Add your salt.  We used Trapani sea salt.  I got mine at TJ Maxx, but you can use kosher salt too.  Steamy Kitchen provided a great link on the difference in salts.  Generally speaking, sea salt and kosher salt adds more of that delicious briny and pop of flavor that table salt doesn't possess.  I love it and use it every possible chance I get.

Add your lukewarm water to kick start all of the active ingredients in yeast so the bread will puff up and smell delicious!  I hope you are following along with my super technical descriptions here. 

Remove your hardware (that means rings ladies and gents!) and prepare for mix off.

Get on in there and gently move the dough around with your fingers so it starts to form a loose, sticky ball.

Ok it should start looking like this.  Lauren said it looked a little dryer than the last time she made it so we added about a teaspoon of water.  That did the trick...

...and it ended up looking like this.  I am a weirdo and love eating raw dough.  Try not to do this.

Get some plastic wrap...

...and cover it up tight.  Lauren asked me where the warmest place in my condo is.  Without a question, our bedroom.  That place is like a sauna.   

And off she went.  Isn't she the cutest?  Normally it's infuriating to know someone who is as naturally skinny and tiny and dainty as this one, but it's pretty impossible not to like her.  She cracks me up too much.

So... this is funny a story.  Since my husband was away on a work trip, we decided we would put the bread on his side of the bed to rise, and to, you know, keep me company.  We were on our second bottle of wine and thought this was a fantastic idea at the time.  Night night little bread, go bready by.  We'll see you in 12 - 20 hours!  I should be ashamed of myself.

Note:  Because I didn't have enough time to let it rise the full 20 hours before baking, we just stuck with the minimum of 12 hours that Steamy Kitchen suggests.  It still came out great.

Good morning dough!  This is what it looked like after 12 hours.  Not quite like waking up next to my husband, but close.

Ok, now, grab your dough and form a loaf.  The dough, most likely because I didn't let it rise for the full 20 hours, wasn't too sticky so I didn't even really need the flour or to wet my hands.  I picked it up, gently folded it into itself to make this pretty little dough ball and placed the bottom side of the dough in the flour, mostly for aesthetic reasons.  You'll see why later.

Now, you want to place the dough in a towel lined bowl that you have sprinkled with flour.  Same bowl you have been using is just fine. 

Cover the dough with the towel and let the dough rest for another 2 hours.  I ran out of time so I decided to let it go for one hour and it still came out great.  I used this beautiful towel our friends Dave and Sarah gave us as an engagement gift.  So adorable.  I would wear this as a loin cloth if it were socially acceptable.

Ok this is what Darlene the dough ball looked like after an hour.  It's amazing to me how much this has transformed from a sloppy goopy mess to this perfectly rounded loaf. 

Steamy Kitchen used a cast iron dutch oven.  I do not have such a device, but luckily as Jaden states, any large pot with a lid will do.  This is a 6 quart All Clad pan (it just needs to be 4" deep). Put your pan in the oven while it's preheating to 450 degrees so it gets the opportunity to heat up slowly.  

I lined mine with wax paper AFTER I took the pan out of the oven.  Otherwise, as Lauren pointed out, I would have had ashes. She's smart, I'm not. You don't have to add wax paper necessarily, but I was worried it would stick.  Flip the dough in, bottom side up and wiggle the dough around so it's about center.  Put the lid back on and place the pan back in the oven and wait for the heavenly smells of Panera to enter your living room.

This is what it looked like after 30 minutes in the oven.  Remove the wax paper so it doesn't burn and put it BACK in the oven, uncovered for another 15-20 minutes.  I wanted mine extra crunchy on the outside so I did it for a full 20.

And here is she!!!  Doesn't this look incredible?! 

I LOVE how the flour looks on the outside and the deep crack down the side.  It looks so rustic and homey and smells to die for.

We compared this batch to the one Lauren made a couple of weeks ago.  Because I didn't let it rise for the full 20 hours and didn't let it rest for the full 2 hours after forming the dough, it wasn't quite as airy.  It was still absolutely delicious, moist and lovely, however, so if you don't have the time to commit to a 23 hour baking process do not fret.  I managed to eat 1/3 of the loaf at 7:30 am with unsalted butter and garlic salt. 


Speaking of, who said man can't live on bread alone? 

Give this a go this Thanksgiving and let us know what you think!  Stay hungry!

Fresh Baked Bread Recipe
3 cups bread flour
1/4 Tsp instant yeast
3/4 Tbs of sea or kosher salt
1 1/2 cups warm water

Combine all ingredients in a big bowl with your hands until a very loose dough ball forms.  Seal with plastic wrap and let dough rest in a warm place for 12-20 hours.  If the dough is super sticky wet your hands.  Otherwise, lift dough with your hands and gently form a rounded dough ball.  Do this by slowly folding the ends under and into itself. On a floured board, let the dough sit in flour.  Add dough to a kitchen towel lined bowl and let rest for 2 additional hours.  Preheat the oven to 450 WITH the covered pot of your choice inside so it heats up gradually.  Add wax paper if desired and the dough, flour side/bottom side up.  Bake in covered pot for 30 minutes.  Remove lid and wax paper and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes.  Enjoy!!


  1. I'm cracking up... I think the bread in bed is totally something I would do after a couple bottles of wine! Ha! You're too funny.

  2. Love it! My son, who is now 8, is sitting here next to me and says: hi! I love your bread!

  3. Took the bread out of the oven at 5:30 by 6:30
    it was gone along with 1/2# butter. Loved it.
    Your slowly killing me Jaisa.


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