Happy Homesteading: The Perfect Loaf of Bread

When I started this food journey, I began by baking bread. I poured over different recipes. I baked French bread, Italian loaves, basic white bread, and whole grain rye. All of them were very good, but none seemed to fill the need for an everyday bread; none could replace our store bought bread for Matthew's lunch. Then I found Jeff Hertzberg's recipe for Simple Crusty Bread on the NY Times Cooking site.  As recipes go, this one is fairly easy.  I adapted it a tiny bit, but here is the link to the original recipe.

So what makes this the perfect bread to replace store-bought? Well, it's great toasted with homemade jam or apple butter or dipped in gravy (pasta sauce). It makes a hearty sandwich, and most importantly, my two year old thinks it is 'delicious.'

I still like a nice rye or French bread, but this simple bread has quickly taken over as the staple bread in our house. Which means, we have successfully moved away from buying bread. Now that's a homesteading victory if ever there was one.

Here's my version:

Ingredients:
  • 1 ½ tablespoons yeast
  • 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 6 ½ cups bread flour, more for dusting dough
  • Cornmeal (for dusting)

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
  3. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut into 2 pieces with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough in pan or on baking stone; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
  4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Sprinkle top with cornmeal.
  5.  Put dough in oven. Throw four or five ice cubes into the bottom of the oven and quickly shut. In 5 minutes throw another 4 or 5 ice cubes into the oven. again, shut door immediately. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

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