Monday, January 3, 2011

Flour + Salt + Yeast + H2O = Awesome

     What is more universal than bread?  I haven't done any scientific research, but I would venture to say that every civilized society in the world makes and consumes bread.  Biblically speaking bread has all sorts of significance.  Jacob was such a fine baker that his older brother, Esau, sold him his birthright for some bread and lentils.  Let's not forget the meal which unites all the Church in all the world throughout all of time being centered on bread and wine.
     Aside from religious symbolism, many cultures, countries, and peoples have a bread which is special to them.  Taking it a step further you'll be sure to find that within those cultures you'll find families have their own special recipe for bread, which they hold dear.  For my family that is Grammy's Oatmeal Bread.  That's going to have to be an other entry, though.
     I'm still a very beginner baker, so I like to take the simple route, at least until I get more skillful, then I'll make more elaborate breads.  I know many people are the same as me, so this video is for them.  It's the popular Sullivan St. Bread, which is so simple a toddler could do it.  I figured this is the perfect time to be video blogging a wee bit, so watch the video, and enjoy!  Written recipe follows.

In a glass or stainless steel bowl put 17.5 oz. (4 cups) bread flour (easily found in any supermarket), along with 2.5 tsp kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp instant/rapid rise yeast.  Stir it up so you don't have a clump of yeast, then add 1.5 cups of room tempurature (70 degrees) water.  Use yours hands, or a spoon, or a fork, or spatula, or garden trowel (whatever works) to get all water absorbed by the flour and you've got one solid shaggy dough.  Plastic wrap the bowl and let rise at room temp for 8-24 hours, depending on temperature.  If it's summer where you are and you've got no A/C so your kitchen is 80 or 90+ degrees you could easily get away with the 8 hour rise, but if you're stuck in a 52 degree house like I am right now, go ahead and give it the full 24 hour treatment.

Punch it down and let it rest 15 minutes.

Sprinkle a silpat or a kitchen towel with corn meal (if you don't have corn meal I'm sure a heavy dose of flour would work well enough).  Form your dough into a ball by tucking the outer edge up under itself so the top of the ball has a clean round "skin" to it.  Let it rise, seam down and covered with another towel, on your silpat/towel for 2 hours.  About a half hour before the time is up put a 5-6 qt. cast iron dutch oven (or any oven proof pot with a lid) into the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.  When your 2 hours are up use your towel or silpat as a kind of "sling" to drop the bread into the pot, seam down, cover, and bake for 30 minutes.

Take the top off and bake 15 minutes more.

Rest the loaf on a rack for 1-2 hours before cutting.  Store wrapped in tin foil.  It'll keep a week, if you don't devour it all before then.

     I love this recipe!  First of all it's simple.  Second, it's very forgiving, so experimentation is encouraged.  Third, as a science geek I love that gluten shows up without kneading ... all it took was plenty of moisture and time. Fourth, it's just delicious bread.  My favorite things to do with it?  

  • Thick sliced, toasted, and topped with butter and honey with a big cup of loose leaf oolong or green tea.
  • Great with soups and pot roasts.
  • Top it with some over easy eggs and bacon, or sausage, for a hearty breakfast.  Strong coffee not  optional!
  • My favorite French toast in the world is to slice it up the night/day before and let it dry out uncovered all night, then apply your favorite French toast recipe.
  • Or if you find you somehow can't eat it all you can let it dry out even longer and process it into bread crumbs.  Store in a zip top baggy.  All-natural home-made bread crumbs are simply wonderful, and sadly it's rare these days.
     It's your bread, now, so have fun with it.  Enjoy it.  And be sure to get back to me so I can hear how it went.

(Special thanks to my wonderful wife @ Marriage Photography for filming <3  )

"If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee."
Proverb of King Solomon


  1. I really liked the video Zach! You should make more of them! Now I want to try making the bread! ;-) (I love instructional videos!).

    ~ Ames

  2. Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I do plan on more videos, but only occasionally, since I find I'm better at writing than I am at being filmed. At least it feels that way to me.

  3. I enjoy your blog immensley!

  4. LOVE the video! I think you've got the right personality for it and all your info was great -- especially all the vessel comparisons :) I've heard of this recipe but haven't tried it. There's one even easier which takes less time -- far less time. Have you heard of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day? Check out the website.

  5. i simply can not wait to use my dutch oven on this. i remember tasting it at your house. let the baking begin!

  6. P.S. I really like your new wooden background :)

  7. Anonymous:
    Who are you, friend?

    I haven't heard of them. I'll definitely bookmark that one. Thanks so much!

    Take pics when you make it and e-mail them to me.


  8. Fantastic job! This inspires me to blog more often about my culinary adventures! Keep up the great work - both of you! :)