Is your grocery store out of bread? Here’s a way to make it yourself!
How is your COVID-19 quarantine going? It’s day two. I’ve prepped all that I can. Kids are getting instruction on how school will proceed remotely. My husband is set up to work from home. And I’m waiting for my next opportunity to work. And I’m meal prepping!
I visited 3 grocery stores over the weekend. Shelves were almost empty. I’ll admit to panic shopping. I seriously felt like I was in the midst of a dystopian movie. I’m sure most of you can relate. The biggest surprise was that no one had bread. Yikes! But I regrouped to solve the problem. I remembered that I know how to make bread easily. So I picked up some rapid rise yeast. Everything else I need for bread I keep stocked in my pantry.
A few years ago, a New York Times article published a trendy recipe for making bread in a Dutch oven inside your oven. It’s a beautifully simple recipe and method, and I’ve developed multiple variations on this basic recipe over the years.
The recipe I use now calls for a bit more yeast. You don’t have to have a Dutch oven. Any oven-proof cooking vessel with a lid will work, including Pyrex, as long as it can withstand 450 degrees. I’m lucky to have a Le Creuset which was a Christmas gift from my husband several years ago, but I have another enameled Dutch oven from Target that I love, too.
This bread cooks into a beautiful, round loaf that has a wonderful, crunchy crust with a chewy interior. Cooking in the pot keeps in moisture, steaming the dough, and finishing it without the lid ensures that crunchy exterior. It will rival anything you can buy from the bakery in the grocery store. Granted, this will not give you your super soft, mushy PB & J sandwich bread. But it will be something delicious and new! If you have kids, they may like to help. This is an easy recipe that takes just a few minutes to put together, and, since it goes in stages, will be something that won’t lose their interest.
Here is the basic recipe I follow:
Dutch Oven Bread
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I like King Arthur)
1 ¾ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon instant or Rapid-rise yeast
1 ½ cups water
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
- Add water and mix until dough begins to form.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 12-18 hours. (I usually mix a batch of dough in the evening and let it sit overnight).
- Heat oven to 450 degrees.
- When oven has reached full temperature, place a Dutch oven (I use a cast iron pot with lid) in the oven, allowing the pot to heat for 30 minutes.
- While the pot is heating, take a piece of parchment paper at least the size of the pot, flour the surface, and pour dough onto the floured paper, shaping it into a ball.
- Cover with the same plastic wrap from the bowl and allow to rest.
- Once pot is heated, remove the lid, and use the parchment paper to pick up and then drop the dough with the paper under it into the pot. Replace the lid, and allow to bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
- Remove pot from oven, remove bread, and place on a cooling rack to cool.
- Use a large, serrated knife to cut the bread.
- Note that the parchment paper is not necessary, but I’ve found that it makes for easier transfer of the dough into the pot, and it keeps the dough from sticking.
Now here’s the fun part. These are some variations I’ve created:
Spiced Raisin Bread:
- Add generous 1 T pumpkin pie spice, apple pie spice, or cinnamon plus ½ cup raisins to the dry ingredients. If dough seems a bit dry after adding the water per the base recipe, add a bit more water to ensure that the dough pulls together.
- Add chopped, fresh rosemary (from 4-5 sprigs from a grocery store fridge pack; cut with kitchen shears) or 1 T dried rosemary to the dry ingredients.
- Add 1 T oregano and ½ cup sun dried tomatoes to the dry ingredients. Like the raisin bread, if dough doesn’t pull together with the initial addition of water per the recipe, add a bit more to ensure the dough isn’t too dry.
- Add ½ cup of a variety of seeds or nuts to the dry ingredients. I’ve tried sunflower and pepitas with good results.
I haven’t tried yet, but I think a cranberry/orange or lemon/blueberry version may work using the zest of the citrus and dried fruit. These will be my next experiments!
I have subbed part of the AP flour with whole wheat flour before. Note that the texture is denser with the addition of this flour, and the dough will not rise as much. But the result is still tasty! I do not recommend subbing for more than one cup for this reason.
For the savory breads, these are great to slice and dip in flavored olive oil, which you can make yourself. Take about ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil and add salt/pepper to taste and additional spices as desired. I love to add 1 tsp. paprika and ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes. I’ve used rosemary in a version and have made a dill version, too.
(If you are not vegan, you can also add shredded cheese to the dry ingredients. As a vegetarian, I added smoked gouda to the pizza bread. I also made a version with dried dill and Havarti with dill cheese. About one cup of cheese should do, and you will need to add additional water. I have not tried a version with vegan cheese yet. )
I hope you are able to try making some homemade bread! It’s a great time to clean out the pantry of random dried fruit, nuts, and seeds and get creative with spices. If you do try it, let me know how it goes!
I’m trying my best to avoid boredom. After making two loaves of bread, I dusted off my Townie and went for a 13.5 mile bike ride yesterday. Best social isolation ever! I went for a short run today. My gym is closed for now, so I will be taking advantage of whatever workouts people post online for at home strength training and focusing on outdoor cardio for now. I also started doing some deep cleaning and organization. We’ll see how successful that will be!
Stay safe and healthy, friends.
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