I searched everywhere for an easy homemade bread recipe. I had four requirements:
Essentially, it had to be idiot-proof (I’m not a baker by any stretch.)
Originally, I wanted to be able to bake a good sandwich bread that could hold my family over until our next grocery run.
The recipe I settled on turned out a surprisingly mouth-watering, hearty loaf with a thick, crispy crust and a dense, moist crumb.
If I had to pick just one food to eat for the rest of my life, I would choose this bread.
To replace the tiresome and fickle process of kneading, this recipe relies on a long “proof” period, which allows the yeast to work the ingredients into dough naturally, over time. No getting your hands dirty.
The downside is you typically cannot mix, bake and enjoy the bread in the same day. For me, planning ahead is a small price to pay.
I love sourdough and it just so happens that due to the extended, but flexible, fermentation process, this recipe can yield an equally-respectable baker’s bread and sourdough. All you have to do is let the dough sit longer to develop the sour flavor.
Like almost all recipes, mine was adapted from another, in this case from a recipe published in Mother Earth News (which was adapted from a recipe published in the New York Times, et cetera, ad nauseam).
Flour, water, salt, yeast. That's it. That's all it takes to bake great bread.
The recipe below is for a single loaf. I always bake two loaves
at a time to minimize the strain on my electrical bill. (Why heat an
entire oven if you’re not going to fill it?) Simply make two separate
batches and bake in separate pans, in the same oven at the same time. I've found there is little difference in baking times for one or two loaves.
You can make this bread into round or sandwich loaves. I’ve found that for everyday use, the sandwich loaf is easier to cut, eat and bake. However, the round loaf is great for bread bowls and, I’d argue, is more visually appealing. Makes a great gift too.
Not only does homemade bread taste better than store bought, it's cheaper too.
Note: Some weights and measures have been rounded for simplicity.
Flour = $0.27 per loaf
($1.53 for 5-pound bag from Aldi’s, 3.5 cups of flour per pound x 5 pounds = 17.5 cups per bag, $1.53 / 17.5 = .09 per cup x 3 cups = $0.27)
Salt = $0.01 per loaf
($0.39 for 26 oz. can from Aldi’s, 1.5 teaspoons = 0.4 oz., 26 oz. / 0.4 oz. = 65 batches per can, $0.39 / 65 = $0.01)
Yeast* = $0.01 per loaf
($4.74 for two pounds instant dry yeast, 576 (¼) teaspoons per pound x 2 pounds = 1152 (¼) teaspoons, $4.74 / 1152 = $0.01)
* Yeast was purchased at Sam’s Club. If you don’t belong to a big box warehouse, as of this writing, you can buy 2 pounds of active dry yeast from Amazon for $11.75, which still, believe it or not, works out to about $0.01 per loaf. ($11.75 / 1152 = $0.01)
Homemade = $0.29 per 25 oz. loaf ($0.27 flour + $0.01 salt + $0.01 yeast)
Store (Aldi's) = $0.99 per 20 oz. loaf
Homemade = $0.01 per oz. ($0.29 / 25 oz.)
Store (Aldi's) = $0.05 per oz. (.99 / 20 oz.)
Yields one round or sandwich loaf.
1. Pour water in mixing bowl and warm in microwave. The water should be
luke warm. Hot/boiling water can kill yeast. I heat the water for 90
seconds on high in an 1100-watt microwave.
2. Stir in yeast. The yeast should dissolve, turning the water cloudy.
3. Add the salt and flour.
4. Stir thoroughly with a wooden spoon. The dough is ready when it
becomes stretchy and sticks to the sides of the bowl and spoon.
5. Cover the bowl, place in a warm spot and allow to rise. I
put mine on the fireplace mantle. The Mother Earth News recipe calls
for at least 8 hours of rise time, but I’ve found that the bread tastes
better the longer you let it sit. I let mine rise at least 24 hours. The
dough will triple in volume and have a strong sour aroma.
6. Coat baking pan (either a traditional rectangular bread pan for a sandwich loaf or a minimum 3-quart bowl for a round loaf) with oil and dust bottom and sides with flour.
7. Pour the dough from the mixing bowl directly into the floured pan. Use a spatula to gently coax the dough from the bowl.
8. Dust the top of the dough with flour.
9. Cover the pan (either with a lid or another bread pan) and bake at 475 degrees F for 20 minutes. (Do this whether baking one or two loaves.) The loaves are ready when they’ve split on top.
10. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
11. Remove from oven and tip bread out of pan (the loaf should slide out easily). Cool at least 30 minutes.
12. Enjoy immediately or toasted with butter, honey, coconut oil or jam.