Friday, June 29, 2012

Homemade Crusty Bread.....oh the Possibilities !

I want to shout from the tallest mountain top......this is by far, THE EASIEST HOME-BAKED BREAD  METHOD EVER !!!!!!
Forget that my picture, [lets be honest] sucks ! But when you don't have your own [please Santa, please] digital camera [since I am just starting out on my blogging journey] you have to make do with what you have, and that is my LG 3year old phone ! So now your saying 'that's really not such a bad pic after all from a 3 year old cell phone' ! And there's more........
For this recipe, literally, all you do is mix flour, yeast, salt and water together, cover the bowl, leave it sitting out on a counter top and forget about it for 12-18 hours ! I left mine overnight with fabulous results !
 Now in the original recipe from 'Simply So Good', the part that makes this recipe so unique is the method of cooking. Janet says to use a cast iron pot with a well sealing lid, such as Le Creuset. In fact this is an adaptation of a recipe from Le Creuset. Well, I don't own one [another Santa request]. But I had a feeling about this recipe and wanted to give it a try anyhow. I ended up using an old glass 'Vision' casserole [remember them ?] that I bought from The Salvation Army a few years back for the pricey sum of $2 !!
Oh, and do you like my nice shiny black granite island ? I sure do, it's like a mirror, and I don't care that I have to clean and buff it each day, it is my pride and joy !
One other obstacle I had to overcome is that my MAYTAG CONVECTION WALL OVEN decided one day a couple of weeks ago, not to work.....that's what I get for not shopping wisely, I wanted an oven with all the bells and whistles and a touch screen dashboard. I could slap myself now, we have to get a MAYTAG SPECIALIST to look at it, our local appliance store won't touch it ! And you know how much they will charge just for stepping in the door, plus their mileage to get here.
Soooo, luckily I also got a GE Convection Microwave which I have been using to the limit for all my baking is a dream ! I just can't bake anything in a regular oven sized baking sheet or pan, it is just too small. So to have been able to bake this bread at all, is quite an achievement in my house !! 
The hardest part to making this bread is waiting for it to cool enough to slice and eat !! Just look at those lovely little air pockets. This bread is like a Sourdough without the 'Sour'. I thought there would have been that 'yeasty' after taste due to the lack of kneading or just the fact that it is so easy to make.....something had to go wrong ! But no.....delicious and crusty with the chewiness of the rustic variety. I then toasted a slice, oh my how it absorbed the butter and brought the flavour to new heights !
I have to say though, this bread may have it's limits as a sandwich maker, simply because of it's construction. But I have paid $4-6 for similar 'rustic' bread from a bakery, and now there is no way I can ever justify paying that kind of money again ! 
(My favourite sandwich bread to bake is from 'The Bread Bible' by Rose Levy Beranbaum - Pullman Loaf Sandwich Bread [Pain de Mie])
 My husband has had great fun with it....drizzling garlic olive oil over it and piling on olives, freshly harvested cherry tomatoes, grated Swiss cheese with fresh Watermelon and Cantaloupe on the side....the possibilities are endless. 
The dough also lends itself to added flavours too, such as cheese, garlic, cinnamon, raisins, roasted peppers, nuts, seeds and on and on ! Just fold in during the mixing process and you have a new creation  As I say....Oh the possibilities !!

So here is the recipe......adapted from 'Simply So Good'

Homemade Crusty Bread

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups water

In a large [I mean LARGE...the dough needs lots of room to grow] mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12-18 hours...I left mine overnight. Heat oven to 450 degrees. When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid [or in my case a glass casserole dish] in the oven and heat pot for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball. It will be VERY sticky, flour your hands well also ! Cover with plastic wrap and let sit while the pot is heating. Remove pot from oven, remember it is HOT, and drop in the dough. You do NOT need to grease the pot, trust me ! Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes to brown the top [using my glass bowl I only needed 8 minutes]. Remove bread from oven and place on cooling rack to cool. 
That's all there is to it.....voila !!  
I would love to hear how this turns out for you and especially if you create your own flavours ! ENJOY !

Note : To me, bread is a very personal choice, we all have our favourites and those we wouldn't touch with a barge pole, but to create your own homebaked bread is one of the most satisfying baking experiences....if you have never attempted bread making before, put all your caution to the wind and give this a try....all you have to lose is basically 3 cups of flour, but I think you will enjoy the experience in itself !

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  1. I luv it, Swiss cheese bread!! Awesome...thanks for sharing!! xo Ally

    1. Ha ha...Swiss cheese bread, I like that !! Thanks for stopping by Ally ! xo Mary

  2. Thanks for sharing this yummy recipe. Stopping by from Foodie Blogroll and following.

  3. Welcome Debra.....thank you so much for stopping by ! I'm making up another batch later today [watching the clock so that it will be ready to go in to the oven in the morning] Garlic, grated Romano cheese and a touch of heat with some Red Pepper Flakes ! I'll post the results when it comes out the oven....there's nothing like family waking up to the aroma of fresh bread baking, and all I do is plop it in the oven !!

  4. Is there any alternative to using a cast iron pot?

  5. If you look back in the post, you will see that I used an old 'Vision' glass cookware casserole dish....I don't own a cast iron pot myself, so this was my mission to see if the recipe would work using an alternative cooking dish. So if you have a Pyrex dish with a lid or something similar, give it a try.....this worked amazingly well for me ! Happy baking !!