You need to bake bread to be a proper backyard farmer/homesteader, right? I mean, it just seems like something a homesteading type should do, along with keeping chickens and having a vegetable garden. So these past few months I have doing my darnedest to make a homemade loaf of bread a regular occurrence around here.
The first few times I tried to bake bread entirely from scratch. By this I mean with no equipment, other than a bowl, wooden spoon, loaf pan, and oven. The results varied from completely terrible to pretty darn good. Apparently I am in inconsistent bread-maker. Also, I know that kneading is supposed to be all relaxing and Zen-like, but....I get bored and I'm not very good at it. Also, I never seem to remember that I want to make bread until four in the afternoon, when there isn't enough time to go through the whole process in time for dinner. Then there was that time when I thought I was so smart tucking my bowl of dough behind the woodstove to rise quicker. The dog ate the dough. Then he threw it up everywhere.
It seems bread-baking is not my thing.
But happily, I have found my groove with regular bread-baking though, to be honest, it involves a super easy method that feels like cheating.
If you want to try this method, this is a good book to get.
This method is really, super easy. You mix together your boule ingredients-normally just salt, yeast, warm water, and flour, then let the mixture rise for two hours before refrigerating it for up to two weeks. I use a 6 quart lidded container for mixing and storing the dough. When you want to bake bread you pull off some of the dough, keeping the rest for another time. The dough gets shaped quickly, left to rise for a short time, then baked in the oven on a hot pizza stone. No kneading, no multiple rises, no punching down.
It is so easy! The result is a perfectly chewy, soft bread with a nice crisp crust. Did I mention how easy it is?
I have found that the artisan bread flavor is best when the bread has a chance to cool completely. I tend to make a loaf for dinner in the morning and let it cool it's heels all day. At dinner time, I nuke a few slices to warm it up. Incidentally, the loaf in the picture looks a bit small, but it is plenty for the six of us and we usually have leftovers. Sometimes I make two little loaves.
I would still like to perfect the art of "regular" bread-baking. But for now, I am loving the artisan bread alternated with my good old-fashioned bread machine! It is still baking bread after all, even if it feels a little like "cheating".