Homemade Artisan Bread the Easy Way

In this post, I am going to show you how to make a boule of bread as beautiful as this one

using just flour, yeast, salt, and water.

There will be no kneading, no proofing of yeast in a bowl to make sure it is active, and no punching down dough that has doubled in size. In fact, you will pretty much need to forget everything you ever learned about making bread from scratch and use the new and “revolutionary” methods developed by bakers Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francis in their bestselling cookbook, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The authors even have a book on gluten-free bread.

Since reading their book and using their method for the last two months, I feel very comfortable making bread and have not needed to buy any.

This bread is wonderful toasted for breakfast,

lovely for sandwiches at lunch,

and chewy and tasty when served warm at dinner along with a stick of butter.

But, I haven’t told you the best part: you pre-make and store the dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to shape and bake it. Yup, open our refrigerator door on any given day, and you will see a Cambro (a large, lidded, commercial grade food storage container) of dough, ready to be pulled out whenever we desire warm, crusty bread. The dough is good for up to two weeks and develops a mild sourdough flavor as it ages.

Let’s get started. Read over the entire post before you begin. It might sound complicated, but once you do it a few times, it will become second nature. Some tools that are helpful, but not required, are a digital scale, a round, 6-quart Cambro, a pizza stone, a pizza peel, and parchment paper. Know that the first few times I made this recipe I was in a beach house without any of the tools mentioned above, and I was able to make delicious bread.

Yield:  3 one-pound boules of bread
Preheat Oven: 450º, but not until you are ready to bake the bread.

About Flours:  This recipe calls for all-purpose (AP) unbleached flour.  The authors use Publix’s brand. I bake with King Arthur flours which have more protein than other AP flours and thus require an extra ¼ cup of water, per the authors. The authors suggest bumping up the water to 3⅓ cups if using bread flour. The authors suggest not using cake or pastry flours.

Measuring Flour — Weighing vs. Scooping:  For accurate and consistent results, use a digital kitchen scale. If you use a scale, zero out the weight of the empty container before adding flour. If using a measuring cup, do not pack the flour and be sure to level the cup with a knife.

Ingredients: this is the basic recipe
2 pounds (6½ cups) all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 tablespoon (fine) salt or 1½ tablespoons (course) kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated, active, dry yeast
3 cups lukewarm water (at 100º)

Ingredients: Below is my modification of the recipe. It still has 2 pounds of flour, but I’ve incorporated about 15% whole wheat flour without affecting the chemistry.

5 ounces King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour (a heaping cup)
1 pound, 11 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon (fine) sea salt
1 tablespoon granulated, active, dry yeast
3¼ cups lukewarm water (at 100º)

Instructions

Mix the Dough:
Weigh a 6-quart mixing container on a digital scale. Zero it out. Add in the flour(s), salt and yeast. Mix dry ingredients together with a wire whisk.

Add the warmed water. Mix the ingredients with a spatula, incorporating all of the flour from the bottom of the container. Put the lid on, but do not seal it so the gasses can escape. Allow dough to rest for two hours on the countertop. It won’t be resting though; the yeast will become activated by the water and the subsequent fermentation process that ensues will make the dough bubble and rise — and become delicious.

The dough will be wetter than what you may be used to.

After two hours, you could make your first loaf of bread, but I prefer to put the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Chilling it makes the dough easier to shape into a boule, and it gives time for the flavors to become more complex. Do not punch the dough down. Ever.

Shape the Dough
Before you get started, prep the workspace where the dough will rise. I shape the dough and let it rise over a parchment paper-lined pizza peel, but you could put the dough on a cornmeal-covered baking sheet if you don’t have a peel. Sprinkle flour on your hands and over the top of the dough in the Cambro before diving in to scoop out dough. This will help keep the tacky and moist dough from sticking to your hands. Pull out one pound of dough, about one-third of it.

Shape the dough into a ball. This next step is important: stretch the top surface of the ball around and tuck it into the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn at a time. Repeat this motion for about 30 seconds.  Here’s a video by one of the authors. Add just enough additional flour to keep your hands from sticking to the dough. The goal is to flour the “skin” or “cloak” of the boule and not to incorporate flour into the interior. Place the dough on a sheet of parchment paper, uncovered, to rest and rise for 40 minutes.

The dough will spread out as it rises. It doesn’t get tall. That’s okay; the heat and steam in the oven will cause the dough to rise and round out as it bakes. The process is referred to as “oven-rise.” As proof, I once dropped a loaf of risen dough on the flour as I was putting it in the oven. I picked it up, quickly reshaped it, put it back on the peel, and slid it into the oven. The bread still rose — higher than ever. It’s a mystery. (PS: I swear the floor was spotless.)

Prepare the Oven:
While the dough is rising, prep the oven space. Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. If you have a pizza stone, put it on the rack. On the rack beneath it, place an empty pan (that will be filled with water later) to create steam. The steam created by the addition of hot water once the bread is placed in the oven is the most crucial step in getting the bread to rise higher. Turn oven on to 450º. Here’s a photo of the set-up.

Back to the Rising Dough:
After the bread has risen for 40 minutes,

dust the top of the dough lightly with flour and using a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 slashes on top. Allow dough to rest for five more minutes after that.

Slide the dough onto the pizza stone if using one, or if not using a stone, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the dough for about 35 minutes. The bread will be browned and sound hollow when tapped when done.

Remove bread from oven and place on an open wire rack to cool so the bottom of the loaf can crisp up. Allow to cool completely before slicing, or the interior could become doughy.

The only times I skip the step of cooling bread completely is when I’m serving it hot for dinner. These three boules were still hot when I quickly sliced them for a tableful of waiting family members sitting around the dinner table.

(photo credit: Kristen Ivory)

The bread disappeared with lots of gushing going on by those who were slathering each slice with butter as they ate them. That’s always a sight to behold for a cook.

To have a continuous supply of dough in the fridge, make a new Cambro of dough whenever the last container is emptied.

Failures:
There haven’t been any failures in the taste department. Something magical happens while that moist dough ferments. Every loaf I’ve made has tasted extraordinary, even if it wasn’t always a pretty loaf.

My early failures were related to getting the dough to rise sufficiently so the bread wouldn’t be too dense. That problem went away when I started weighing the flour and added steam to the oven to encourage oven-rise.

I hope I’ve inspired you to give bread-making a try. It a very fulfilling experience. Please feel free to ask questions in the Comments section.

(photo credit: Andrew Wright)

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Morning Rounds in the Garden, June

A lot can happen in a month.

Here in mid-June in Tennessee, the peas, lettuces, radishes, turnips, spring onions, and spinach have given way to tomatoes, cukes, zucchini, summer squash, peppers, eggplants, beans, basil, and garlic.

Here’s what’s growing in my Italian kitchen garden this month.

Tomato Plants

Tomatoes are the stars of the summer garden. I planted twelve heirloom Cherokee Purples and an assortment of twelve other heirloom varieties.

I use the Florida Weave system of support for growing tomatoes. It requires 6-foot posts and a few layers of string woven in and around the posts; new layers of string are added as the plants grow taller.

A few years ago, I wrote a post on my favorite tomato plants where I described many varieties. Last year, I had a brilliant idea and decided to grow only Cherokee Purples because they were my favorites. So uniform in color, right?

With a single variety, the art part of my heart wasn’t as enthralled as it had been in seasons past.

That’s why this year, I mixed it up and planted an assortment of tomatoes. I’m going for a variety of color and shapes once again.

Zucchini, Summer Squash, and Patty Pans

Every summer, I try to figure out a new way to keep squash vines off the ground so they won’t rot or be devoured by vine borers. This year, I tried using new short cages I found at Home Depot. So far, they are doing the trick. Each cage has 5-6 seedlings planted in it. I meant to thin them out, but I have a hard time thinning because I hate to discard the rejects. Now, the cages are tightly packed with foliage, flowers, and some fruit. It’s a jungle in there. I plan to sow more seeds in the back garden, this time with three plants to a hill, as is recommended on the package.

The plants are just starting to produce.

Cucumbers

I’m afraid I overplanted here, as well.

Eating cucumbers in a salad, making cucumber soup, and making pickles, are my favorite ways to enjoy cucumbers.

I did want to show the little supports I bought online to help attach viney vegetables to a chicken-wire fence. Note the dark green clips. I use them to support peas and beans, too.

Sweet Bell Peppers

I use the same Florida Weave system of support for peppers and eggplants as I do for tomatoes.

Eggplants

My large Black Beauty eggplants went in the ground late and have a ways to go before they flower.

The smaller style of eggplants, Fairy Tale, Hansel, Gretel, and Ichiban, are already producing and will provide eggplants for cooking while I await the larger Black Beauty.

String Beans (Bush Beans)

I planted these in between the lettuce plants and in front of the peas in early May. When I pulled the lettuce and peas, the string beans seedlings took off.

Rainbow Swiss Chard

Truth be told, I enjoy photographing chard more than eating it.

 

Basil

It wouldn’t be an Italian garden without basil. I throw it in almost every pasta dish I cook. There’s plenty to share.

The Back Garden

I’ve pulled the lettuce, radishes, spring onions, and beets.

The last of the spring onions.

We’re still harvesting garlic, kale, potatoes, carrots, and asparagus. Asparagus shoots turn into tall ferns if you don’t harvest them. This is year three for these Jersey Knights.

Commercial or Agricultural Crops

Every year, I plant a few new crops (mostly agricultural) to see how they grow.  I have quite a few stories about commercial farming that I’ve written over the years. You can find them by browsing the Menu. In this next photo, I’ve planted sugar cane and rice (inspired by our trip to India), and peanuts and cotton (inspired by our trip to Como and the Delta in Mississippi).

In another raised bed, inspired by frequent trips to Kentucky, I’m growing: corn, tobacco, and soybeans. Some plants were grown from seed, and some are “roadsydia.”

Finally, there is a fairly robust crop of indigo growing from volunteers from last year’s indigo plants that I picked up at a Farmers Market. I’ve allowed the seedlings to mature so I can try my hand at making indigo dye.

I was playing with an indigo dye purchased at Eastertime, and I’ve been thinking about making a natural indigo dye ever since …

My first blackberry ripened today!

Can’t forget the chickens this morning.

That’s it for this episode of Morning Rounds!

Check out Morning Rounds from April and May.

What do I do with all of these gorgeous vegetables?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

My Favorite Peach Custard Pie

This is how it goes every summer: the first juicy peach I see, I eat, the second one goes into a pie; this peach pie–

a custardy pie with very few ingredients and no spices; just peaches, eggs, flour, sugar, and sour cream.

The first peach pie I made was in 1983 after reading Nora Ephron’s debut novel, Heartburn. In the book, Ephron described perfecting a peach pie recipe with a friend while on vacation. I got that. I spent our last family vacation at the beach perfecting no-knead artisan bread. Half the joy was having ten people at the ready to test samples with smiles on their faces and spoonfuls of homemade Roasted Rosemary and Strawberry Jam dripping off their buttered toast. Ephron’s recipe was good, but her directions were sparse. They were more like the directions of a seasoned cook, as she was — quickly scrawled notes on bits of scrap paper.

To get consistently good results, I needed to better determine when the custard would be set and learn an effective technique for preparing partially baked crusts. For pie crust help, I turned to First Prize Pies, by Allison Kave. I love her book. Thanks to her instructions, I went from making crusts with shrunken, collapsed sides to beautiful partially baked pie shells that still crested the rim of the pie plate.

 

My old way of filling a crust with a few ceramic beads, as seen in the photo on the left, didn’t cut it. I switched to Allison Kave’s way of lining the dough with foil that is gently pushed into the corners of the bottom layer of dough, filling the foil with two pounds of dried beans right up to the crimped edges, and covering the edges with foil to keep them from browning.

 

Her technique provided the side-structure needed for a good-looking crust. Baking a single-crust pie shell no longer intimidates me.

Neither does knowing when a custard filling is set. With fruit pie, you add flour, tapioca or cornstarch to filling to thicken it. Once cooked though, it takes longer than you would imagine, about three hours, for the filling to cool and set. When baking a custard filling with fruit, it can be even iffier because the center of the pie, although crusted over, will still be wobbly when it is time to be pulled from the oven. That goes against one’s cooking instincts for determining when a dessert is sufficiently baked. You can’t depend on the time-honored knife test with this recipe. I did some research and learned you could use a digital thermometer to help determine doneness. As long as the center temperature is between 170º-180º, the pie will finish cooking with its residual heat and set within a few hours as it cools. It takes 35-40″ to cook this pie in my oven.

Another thing about pie crusts, although I know how to make them, I still buy Trader Joe’s uncooked, rolled crust from their freezer section for convenience. The trick to unfurling their prepared crust without it falling apart is to let the dough defrost completely on the counter for ninety minutes. If you want to learn how to make a beautiful pie crust from scratch, go to  King Arthur Flour’s website. They have excellent instructional videos.

Ingredients:

A single 9-inch pie crust that is partially baked
3 cups (6-9 peaches) ripe, peeled peaches, at room temp
5 large egg yolks
1 to 1¼ cups granulated sugar (less if peaches are super-ripe, more if not so sweet)
3 tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour
½ cup sour cream

Mise en Place:

Partially bake the pie crust:
Preheat oven to 425º.
Grease the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate.

Lay the single crust inside the pie plate. Crimp the edges. Poke fork holes in the bottom to help decrease shrinkage.

Place a layer of aluminum foil over the crust, gently pushing it into the bottom edges and around the upper crimped edges. Fill with two pounds of dried beans as shown in the photos above. The beans need to fill the shell completely to keep the sides from collapsing.

Place the pie plate on the middle rack of a preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes and then turn crust 180º and bake for another five minutes. I recommend setting a timer. Remove crust and place on a wire rack to cool for 1-2 minutes before gently removing foil and beans.

Prep the filling while the crust cooks:
Peel the peaches and slice. You do not want to use hard peaches — they lack flavor. If they don’t taste good enough to eat, they won’t taste good in a pie. If you use drippy-ripe peaches, let them drain a little in a colander while you make the custard. If you use frozen or canned peaches, drain them.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg yolks with a whisk. Add sugar and flour and stir. Add sour cream and whisk until batter appears smooth.

Put it all together:
Decrease oven temperature to 350º.

Lay the peaches in the bottom of the crust.

Pour filling over it. Cover the crimped edges with an edge protector, or foil, to keep them from browning any further.

Bake the pie for 35-40″ on the middle rack of 350º oven. When done, the filling should be golden on top, the outer 2-3 inches of the pie should be set, and the center should still be a bit wobbly, yet crusted over. Read notes above on testing for doneness.

Now, let’s just say you have a tableful of hungry guests who have finished dinner, have been smelling the pie cooking, and are waiting for dessert. In that case, I would cook the pie 15″ longer and serve it warm. I did this a few days ago.

Other Pie Recipes on the Blog:
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Mom’s Apple Pie (with a cheddar streusel topping)
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie
Very Berry Clafoutis
Quiche Lorraine with Bacon and Kale
Stocking Stuffers: Tools for the Cooking Life

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright

Morning Rounds in the Garden, May

The Spring garden is producing! The lettuces, kale, collards, spinach, peas, spring onions (aka scallions), radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, garlic, and herbs are experiencing unfettered growth.

Farmers grow food to eat, but I have to believe the majority of them are nourishers at heart who enjoy watching things grow. They are people who appreciate the miracle that happens every time you place a seed in the ground, water it, watch it sprout, grow leaves, and bear fruit. They can appreciate that within every seed there is the capacity for dormant energy to awaken and grow a root that pushes downward through dirt to seek water and a stem that pushes upward to gather sunshine for continued growth through photosynthesis.

Picking up where Morning Rounds 1 left off in April …

The Lower Garden

Typically, only the perimeter of this garden is planted in the spring. I usually leave the interior raised beds open and available for summer crops.

Two words about raised beds — build them! The beds are almost maintenance free. The soil does not need to be tilled because there is no compaction from being walked on. They also offer excellent drainage and are easy to weed.

Influenced by my recent trip to India where I saw daikon radishes in almost every village, I decided to grow a trial crop of them in four of the empty raised beds. You can see them in the photo above. A side benefit of growing this crop is how well the radish’s long roots break up the soil. They do the work of a tiller.

The Sugar Snap Peas planted on February 20th have started producing. Like wild! The plants were nearly four feet tall before the first flowers appeared. Now they are loaded with blossoms and peas.

Butter Crunch Lettuce has been growing well at the foot of the pea plants.

Yesterday, I harvested the entire row of lettuce and donated it to The Nashville Food Project. I will plant a summer crop of string beans in its place. This is Booth Jewett, the Food Donations Coordinator at TNFP weighing the donated lettuce. TNFP weighs and logs all food recovered from the community. Email Booth (booth@thenashvillefoodproject.org) if you have an abundance of any food products you would like to donate.

The Champanel and Concord Grapes budded last week. The tightly grouped green balls (aka ovaries, if I must say it–my kids hate when I do)

spread out and flower for only one to two days. During that short time, the flowers self-pollinate. Self-pollination happens when each flower has both male and female parts. They only need a little wind and gravity to bring the two parts together to set the fruit. Tomatoes are pollinated the same way.

One morning, I found little silvery balls of dew around the edges of a grape leaf. That will make you smile.

As I mentioned earlier, inspired by my visit to India, I planted White Icicle radishes on March 13th and harvested them on May 4th.

The bright white radishes were pretty and tasty.

With thoughts of my visit to the Langar Hall of a Sikh temple in Delhi, where I joined volunteers to prep white radishes for lunch, I donated the harvest to TNFP. Little do those volunteers in India know they planted a seed within me that sprouted an idea.

On the left side of this garden, I grew dwarf Sugar Daddy Peas. I planted cool-weather-loving Hakurei Turnips and Sensation Spinach in front of the peas. As the peas grow taller, they will shade the turnips and spinach extending their growing season by a few weeks.

The Back Garden

The back garden gives me more joy than any other spot in my yard. It was built and designed by Jeremy Lekich, owner of Nashville Foodscapes. It is a lush and peaceful place.

My favorite part is the “blackberry fence” Jeremy installed around the garden. He used four-foot high “rabbit” fencing to keep the chickens out. The blackberries are planted outside the fence.

This cluster of blackberry flowers shows each of the stages of flower development: a closed flower bud, an open flower, and a flower that has been pollinated and is now growing a blackberry. Blackberries do require bees for pollination.

The large kale plants in this kale patch wintered over (uncovered!) from the fall. The smaller plants were started by seeds planted on March 10th.

We’ve been picking from the bed of spring onions, shown below, since May first. I planted an entire raised bed of onions this year because I never wanted to run out. I use them almost daily in salads and in cooking.

I planted lettuce seeds on March 10th, but those seeds never germinated. I think the ground was still too cold and wet. When I realized they were not going to germinate, I bought and planted a variety of lettuce plants. Later, in mid-April, I planted new lettuce seeds so I could have a succession of lettuce leaves to harvest. Those seeds germinated and can be seen growing between the larger plants.

I planted garlic cloves from heads of garlic I had in the kitchen. They have grown beautifully and should be ready for harvest next month. Interspersed with the garlic are self-seeded indigo plants from a crop I grew last summer.  Once I pull the garlic in June, I’ll let the indigo plants continue to grow throughout the summer. I’m dreaming about indigo dyes.

We’ve been eating radishes for about a month now. I will harvest what remains of those plants this week so the beet seeds I planted in the same row and at the same time as the radishes will get more sun.

I only planted a small crop of potatoes this year; just enough to be able to show the children who visit my garden where potatoes come from.

I love my herb garden! Growing in it are lots of rosemary, oregano, and thyme; all herbs I use in my recipes for Chicken Cacciatore, Chicken Marbella, and Lemony Grilled Chicken. Also growing are sage, parsley, chives, cilantro and a fun perennial plant to watch called Egyptian Walking Onions.

I have a few rhubarb plants in the garden. They are perennials, and I’m hoping to establish a small bed of them.

The Chickens

The chickens continue to lay their eggs and delight us with their antics. They are the ultimate composters eating almost everything we throw in the compost pile.

Here they are eating radish and kale tops.

 

 

 

Herb Porch Pots

This is my third year to plant herb porch pots on my front porch. I always plant them using hardy herbs in late February.

My 20-month-old grandson and I have lots of rituals we partake in when he comes to visit. My favorite is to pinch a leaf off of one of the herbs, rub it between my fingers, and let him smell it. Sometimes, he tastes it, too. Yet, another reason to grow your own food!

That’s it for this version of Morning Rounds!

Related Posts
Morning Rounds 1
Eulogy for a Chicken
WWMD? A Bucket of Spring Veggies as a Centerpiece
Herb Porch Pots!
How to Make Grape Jelly (and grow the grapes)
Family Dirt
Cooking 35,000 Meals a Day in a Sikh Kitchen in Delhi (India, Part 1)

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.