NOMNOM CARBOHYDRATES NOMNOM.
Let’s be honest, who *doesn’t* love a good loaf of bread? Who doesn’t love the smell of it as it bakes in the oven? Who doesn’t love the sensuous feeling of warm bread dripping with butter melting on your tongue….
Okay, sorry, I got lost in a fantasy world for a second daydreaming about bread.
In case you can’t tell, that’s the topic of today’s blog! Easy bread, to boot! As most of you know, I have possessed a Lodge enameled cast iron dutch oven since last winter. Best. Purchase. Ever…in case you were wondering. Anyway, I am always on the lookout for things to make in my dutch oven. It is AMAAAZING for braising ribs, I recently tried an Irish beef stew in it (it was so delicious!), often make soups with it, you name it, I use the dutch oven for it. So as you can imagine, when I came across this little beauty on Pinterest, I pinned it right away with the intention of trying it VERY SOON!
And then school started up again, I got bogged down with homework, the usual stuff. The bread idea was placed on the figurative back burner and all but forgotten. But a few days ago, my best friend finally got her first dutch oven! She was so excited! I was so excited! OMG YAY DUTCH OVENS ARE EXCITING! She wanted suggestions for things to cook in her new toy, and while linking her various recipes I remembered: THE BREAD! “Ohhh yeaaaaah,” I thought “I want to make this too!” So I did.
As many of you know, the eastern seaboard has yet again been graced by Father Winter, who is cranky and stubborn and just doesn’t seem to want to leave this year!! Last Wednesday, it snowed…didn’t stick, just snowed and looked menacing, and it took me more than two hours to get to school for a 50 minute class. I was very, very upset. So last night, I decided that I wasn’t going anywhere today if the flakes started falling, and then school closed, so I didn’t have to worry about it anyway. Given that this particular bread requires 12-18 hours of rise time, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to make it. Start it yesterday, let it sit overnight, finish it up today, watch the snow, smell the bread, be warm from the oven – perfection!
The only trouble was, I needed more whole wheat flour. UH OH! I went to the store and got some, but not before experiencing the mad house that is Maryland people before a winter storm. For some reason, snow = end of days in this state, and everyone panics and buys everything from the grocery store the day before. It’s stupid – GUYS, I PROMISE: THE SNOW WILL MELT AND THERE WILL BE NO SHORTAGE OF FOOD. Thankfully, since everyone was at Giant panicking, I was able to get in and out of Target at a relatively good speed. Remember that next time you can’t park at a grocery store the day before snow, folks – Target has a grocery section. They sell flour. Nyeh nyeh.
And so the process began:
I don’t have any photos of the ingredients, but know that you will need 6 cups of bread flour, 1/2 tsp of instant or active dry yeast, 2.5 tsp of salt, and 2 & 2/3 cup of cool water. I subbed 3 cups of whole wheat flour for 3 of the cups of bread flour. Mix the dry ingredients together and then add the water.
For not the first time yesterday, I found myself wishing I had a KitchenAid mixer. Doesn’t everyone want one of those at some point? Ugh, I needed that bread paddle yesterday (though a much cheaper alternative that I am going to look into is a danish dough whisk. It’s $10 to the KitchenAid’s $400). Let it be known, though, that the puny dough hooks and wimpy motor on my hand mixer actually worked long enough to incorporate the dough. I didn’t have much faith in it to start, but as long as I nursed it along patiently, it did well. I finished up by wetting my hands (the dough was ever so slightly too dry) and getting the rest of the dough ball mixed up. I had to add one extra tablespoon of water to get the right consistency (I find whole wheat to be a “thirstier” flour).
Okay, so maybe it’s not the most glamorous thing in the world, but let’s face it, folks…It’s a ball of dough. YIPPEE. I then covered it with plastic wrap and set it on top of my fridge (it’s the warmest spot in my kitchen and also out of the way of fur balls that think it’s okay to walk on the counter tops).
It is supposed to rise for 12-18 hours….Look at that bad boy go! I was curious, so I peeked while I was making dinner. I couldn’t help myself!
And then I checked again before bed….JUST TO BE SURE THE YEAST WAS WORKING! (We have had yeast in our freezer for ages. By the way, if you’re going to use yeast that you’ve frozen, let it get to room temperature first, okay? Okay. Also, if you’re unsure as to whether it is still active or not, follow this simple instruction guide to tell if your yeast is still viable.)
And here is that beauty this morning. Looks gooooooood. You will know your dough is ready when it’s all bubbly and smells super yeasty. To me it smelled like beer, so I knew it was good to go.
On a well floured surface, and with well floured hands, roll that bad boy out of the bowl and work it into a ball. Flour a piece of parchment paper or a tea towel and put the dough ball seam side down on it. Cover with another towel and let rise for 1-2 hours until it has doubled in size. I have a lot of homework to get done today, so in order to make sure I kept the correct schedule for this bread, I anal retentively set an alarm for an hour and 30 minutes.
Why an hour and 30 instead of 2 hours, you ask? Because for the last 30 minutes of the rising process, you’re going to want to place a dutch oven (or any heavy oven proof pot that has a lid) in a cold oven and bring it up to 425 degrees. If you’re not sure whether your dutch oven’s handle can…well…handle 425 degrees, wrap it in aluminum foil. I *think* mine is okay, but…just to be sure, I wrapped it anyway. Because I like my dutch oven and I want it to last for a long time.
Eeyup, I’d say that effectively doubled in size! (After 2 hours)
Slide your hand under the parchment paper and flip the dough into the dutch oven. BE CAREFUL, IT’S HOT! DON’T TOUCH THE EDGES!! Now the seam will be up. Put the top back on and stick that bad boy in the oven for 40 minutes. Mmmmmmmm, do you SMELL THAT??? *drool*
It is now going to take every collective ounce of self control and restraint available in this house to let this cool down all the way before we cut into it. Once the Ryan wandered out here and spied it, there
might just be was mutiny (“What? Why do we have to wait? What’s this nonsense? I don’t know what you’re talking about!” *grumbles and walks away pouting*). But I will emphasize again: DO NOT CUT INTO IT UNTIL IT HAS COOLED! Doing so will ruin the bread’s consistency and make it gummy and dense. Nobody wants that, do they? Didn’t think so.
After hours of being pestered by the Ryan, the bread was finally read to cut. BEHOLD THE DELICIOUSNESS. I spread a little honey on mine. Mmmmm, good. The Ryan hasn’t spoken in a few minutes, so I will interpret that to mean he enjoys it.
Well, what are you waiting for? GO BAKE SOME BREAD!!!