My husband and I are both from Slovakia and one of the staples in our home, now and as we were growing up, is freshly baked crusty bread. There is nothing better than cutting into a warm loaf of bread. The crust crackles as I cut into it and its nutty aroma fills my home. I bake bread. My kids love it in the most simple way. They slather some grass fed butter on it and keep coming back for more. Right now, I can only make two loaves at a time. This means, I have to bake it at least twice a week.
There are plenty of recipes and videos out there for a no kneed bread, 1-hour bread and such, and these are fine… but. A real crusty bread, with nooks and crannies, my kids call eyes, takes a little time. For our bread, I use my stand mixer by kitchen aid, but I have and have no problem making the dough by hand from start to finish. In our bakery in Slovakia, my husband made dough by hand, because our expensive mixer broke and well, customer service is still not the biggest priority there. He made it from twenty pounds of flour at a time! Another thing I noticed with the 1-hour breads, is that it simply does not have the time to rise enough. This can produce a heavy bread which is much harder to digest. Longer rising or proving of bread not only creates a lighter loaf, but the fermentation which takes place, gives the bread its nooks and crannies and most importantly, a fermented bread is much easier to digest. So, give the bread its time, you will be glad you did.
Which is better cake yeast or dry yeast. Again, in Slovakia all I ever used was caked yeast. It came in convenient little cubes, perfect for up to a kilo of flour- which is 2.20lbs. I loved using cake yeast, but here in the States, it is harder to come by, so I have adjusted my bread recipe using dry active yeast and it works great. Big plus, its shelf life is awesome! Some like to use starters, which is great too. I have one in my fridge right now, I will experiment with it for a new baguette recipe I am working on.
Next up, flour. I use bread flour and wheat flour combined. This gives the bread a nice nutty flavor, which reminds me of our traditional bread in Slovakia. I also use potatoes in one of my bread recipes. It does not matter which brand you choose, as long as the flour is unbleached and unbromated.Potassium bromate is used in flour to make it whiter and helps the dough rise higher, this may be desirable for some bakeries, bakers and such, but it is a carcinogen and I simply will not use it! After all, I am trying to provide my family with a healthier bread.
Now, that we have covered the ingredients, it is time to discuss the way of baking it. Most kitchen ovens are able to go up to 5oo degrees Fahrenheit, this is plenty enough for baking bread. Initially, the oven needs to be preheated to this temperature for 40 minutes with the baking stone or dutch over inside it. The high temperature helps the dough rise and create a crust. The temperature will be then lowered to 400 degrees for the rest of the baking time.My bread always gets a sprinkle of water as I put it in the oven. Another reason why its nice and crusty all over.
Ok, here is what you need:
2-3 cotton kitchen towels- dedicated to only making bread
Stand mixer with hook attachment
A large bowl
Baking stone-pizza stone or dutch oven with lid
Pizza peel, if using baking stone
Baking paper if using baking stone
Cornmeal or Semolina Flour for dusting the baking paper
Spray bottle dedicated only to water or a pastry brush and bowl with water.
Lame or super sharp knife- for slicing the top of bread- you need to create your own design 🙂
Oven! yes you need an oven- haha
Cutting board big enough to fold the proven dough on.
Nerves of steel, no pets or children touching the oven and a glass of wine.
The recipe is very simple. This is a 6 ingredient bread! That’s it. No preservatives, colorants, additives… If you use organic flour than its even better!
30 oz bread flour
3.5 oz whole wheat flour
2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt (I use pink salt)
1 teaspoon molasses
Place the flours, yeast and salt in the mixer bowl and whisk together by hand. Using a quart size measuring cup, measure 2 cups of warm water and dissolve the teaspoon of molasses in it. Pour the mixture into the mixer bowl with the flour and mix using a hook on low to combine all of the ingredients. Once the dough is together, switch it on medium and let it mix for about a minute. What you are looking for, is a clean bowl all over, except the bottom of the bowl. If your bowl is covered with the dough, keep working it on high until the dough is all collected on the hook and on the center of the bowl. If the dough is still sticking to the bowl, add a sprinkle of flour, 1 teaspoon. The dough should be soft to touch and not glossy. If its glossy add a little flour, if its hard, add water. The measurements are exact, but you never know. 🙂
Once the dough is the right consistency, dust your hand with flour and remove the dough off of the hook and take it our of the mixer bowl. Place on cutting board or clean, flat work surface and fold the dough into a ball. Use flour to dust your hands. The dough should not be sticky, and if should be a soft pliable dough. Place the ball of dough into a large, flour dusted or lightly greased bowl, dust with more flour and cover with saran wrap or cotton kitchen towel. I have used both, but the saran wrap helps maintain the temperature better. Set in a draft free, warm place. Put a timer on for 45 minutes. Have above mentioned glass of wine, read or change diapers or as in my case, feed animals.
After 45 minutes, uncover the bowl, the dough should have proven quite nicely. Dust your hand with flour and fold the dough outward in, in a complete circle, this is also called the baker’s turn. About 8 times. Cover bowl again and put the timer on for another 45 minutes.
Repeat all of the above and set it for one more time.
Hey, I said it takes time!
After the last time, uncover the bowl, dust hands and take dough out. Place on a flour dusted work surface and gently spread the dough with your hands, outward. Fold the dough like an envelope- right side in, left side in. Turn over and cut in two. Take one piece of dough and form a round loaf. Place on board and roll with hands to create a log. Repeat with the other. Place each log into well dusted (flour) cotton towels and create forms like the pic below. Dust with flour and cover with cotton towel. Let it rest for 45 minutes. Turn oven on to 500 degrees with the baking stone or dutch oven inside.
When time is up, take a pizza peel and place a large baking sheet on it. Sprinkle with cornmeal or semolina flour. Uncover one of the loaves and roll it over onto the pizza peel, making sure to leave enough room for the other loaf. They will bake on the stone at the same time. If using dutch oven, gently roll the dough into it using the towel it has been rising on. Please be careful, the dutch oven is super hot! Do not drop the dough, on neither the pizza peel nor the dutch oven. The dough will go flat and well, that is just not pretty!
Bring the pizza peel to the oven spray with water and cut your design on top of the bread using a lame or sharp knife. Gently slide the loafs in with the baking paper and all. This saves your pizza stone and is really easy to handle both loafs.
Dutch oven- once the dough is in, spray or sprinkle with water, cut the top of the bread. Cover with dutch oven lid and place in oven. Put your timer on for 45 minutes.
After 15 minutes, lower temperature to 400 degrees.
30 minutes into baking, spray the bread again, covering all sides but the bottom.
Dutch oven- spray the bread and leave for the rest of the time uncovered.
After 45 minutes, take out one loaf, careful its hot! Flip over a tap the bottom of the bread. The sound should be hollow and it should be nice and brown. If it is not, let the bread bake for another five minutes.
Dutch oven- this is tricky, because the pot is heavy, but tip the bread out of the dutch oven to check for the hollow sound. It should look like the picture below.
Let the bread cool almost completely, on a cooking rack. Do not cool on a flat, solid surface!
Oh, and it is tradition to bless the bread as it goes into the oven. Just draw the holly cross over the bread. 🙂
Slice bread after it cools, slather with butter and enjoy!