The Bread That Saves My Bacon. Every Day.

I’m nearly three months into living with my father in law, and my biggest struggles have been laundry and food.  That one extra person pushed us over into an extra load each day, and an extra pan of whatever for dinner.  Trying to figure out the quantities was killing me!  I was so stressed about making meals, but I’ve finally figured out how to feed this large family without making enormous amounts of expensive foods.

My not-so-secret secret?

Bread.  And sometimes salad, but, mostly – bread.

I make this simple artisan bread almost every day.  It makes two loaves, and, often, we just eat one, leaving the other for the next day’s breakfast or dinner.  But some days, we eat both, and that’s okay.  It’s extremely inexpensive to make, and very quick, too.  Well, maybe not time-wise, but hands-on time?  Practically nil.

Ingredients:

3 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6-ish cups of all purpose flour

Pour the water into a large bowl, then sprinkle the salt and yeast over the surface. Give it just a minute to hydrate, then stir into the water. Dump the flour into the bowl and stir till all the flour is moistened.

bread 1You can use it really wet and shaggy, but I like it to be a soft, only slightly sticky dough for easier handling later, so I knead the dough in its bowl just briefly, adding more flour if needed, to get the right consistency.  Let it rest for 30-60 minutes, till it’s starting to look risen and puffy.  It doesn’t have to double, and it won’t matter if you get busy and it quadruples. It’s very forgiving.
bread 2Sprinkle your work surface with flour and scrape the dough out of the bowl.  Try not to squish it too much.   If it’s very sticky still, you can sprinkle the dough with a bit of flour so you can work it.  Cut it into two equal pieces.
helper evieIf you have a helper, make sure she doesn’t eat all the dough while you’re fetching equipment, washing dishes, or snapping photos. We have a real problem with that around here.
bread 3Stand a dough half on its rounded edge and press it quickly into an oblong shape, folding the pointy corners in for tidiness.  You want to handle it as little as possible.bread 4Roll it up and stretch it gently into a log shape no bigger than the pan you plan to cook it on.  Have the pan handy, because the loaf always looks much shorter on the counter!  Do the same with the other dough half.  The pan I’m using is gloriously non-stick.  If you are using a lesser pan, make sure it’s liberally covered with corn flour.  This dough tends to stick like you would not believe.bread 5 It’s time to get the oven ready now.  Put one rack on the lowest setting and one rack in the middle of the oven.  Place a metal pan you don’t care much about on the bottom rack and preheat to 450°.  (Don’t use glass; it might shatter later!  I use an old cookie sheet, but that worthless broiler pan that comes with the oven will work, too.)bread 6Meanwhile, use a sharp knife or razor blade to score the loaves.  Your bread won’t look like it’s risen at all when you put it in the oven, but don’t worry about it.  Have a cup of hot tap water ready.  As soon as the oven is preheated, put the bread onto the middle rack, pour the hot water quickly into the hot pan on the bottom rack, avoid getting burned by the steam, and shut the door!  Alternately, you can probably spritz the oven and bread with water from a spray bottle.  I like the drama of the hot pan, though.bread 7
Thirty minutes later, you have yourself an impressive loaf of crusty french-style bread.  The leftover loaf can be refreshed tomorrow simply by tossing it in a 350° for ten minutes, and it makes the most fabulous garlic bread.  More importantly, if you’re feeding a crowd, it’ll save your bacon.  Or roast.  Or casserole. And your food budget, too.

It’s like magic.

And here are the links to my favorite bread-making things on Amazon. These are affiliate links, so I’ll get a small commission if you purchase anything, and I thank you in advance. 🙂

USA Pan 8 x 16 Inch 2-Well Perforated Italian Loaf Pan: I have never greased or floured this pan, and my bread slides right off every time. In fact, I have to be careful pulling it out of the oven, lest my loaves fly off before I’m ready! And the non-stick coating is non-toxic.
Danish Dough Whisk: This thing is not strictly necessary – a spoon will do the job, too – but it’s kind of fun and fancy and worth a little splurge. I use it all the time.
Dough Scraper: Mine has King Arthur Flour stamped on one side, which instantly increases the price to $20, but this is a really useful kitchen tool, too. Before I had one, I used a pancake flipper without incident. 😉

13 Comment

  1. Your bread looks wonderful. I’m surprised you can use that pan with your wet dough. I had one of those and the dough used to get down in the little holes and get stuck. Then I’d tear it apart pulling it off the pan. Your recipe looks just like Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, except you don’t wait for the second rise. I love that bread! I always make rounds because its easier but I can see that a round might be hard to divide among the many people at your table.

    1. Yes, it’s the same recipe, lightly kneaded and less sticky. The original is too wet to work with easily. The pan, though, is amazing. Even with the holes, I haven’t had issues, but that might be because of my slightly thicker dough consistency.

    2. Did you have this brand of pan, Barbara? I have never seen pans like these for non-stickness. They’re amazing.

  2. I’ve been using the bread trick for years now. Kids love bread. It’s great for rounding a simple cream-of veggie soup and a salad into a meal. I love salad, too. Lettuce is cheap and it is lovely to have a bit of fresh green in winter.
    Bread is much more forgiving than people think. You could make that dough at night before you go to bed, let it sit all night, and shape and bake whenever it fits into your day the next day. The bread will taste much better, and you can cut the yeast back to just a teaspoon or two, which makes it even cheaper! I have been making my doughs at night using a sourdough starter I made up myself. I let a jar of water and flour sludge sit out near the wood stove until it got sour smelling, then fed it more flour and water for a few days until it got nice and bubbly and was really working. Now I use about a cup of it with my 3-ish cups of water to make my dough at night, and feed the started equal amounts of flour and water to make it grow again for next day. NO yeast required! Even cheaper! It tastes fabulous and rises just as well as commercial yeast. You might try and see what wild yeasts you can catch at your place-perhaps you’ll catch something yummy.

    1. I’m going to try that , Emily. I haven’t liked using sourdough in the past; I found the process too fussy, and it seemed like it should be super simple, considering the sorts of people who traditionally used it! I’ll set my slurry out tonight and see what we catch!

      1. Sourdough is at its simplest when used every day, I think. If, say, you keep a two cup starter, you just scoop out a cup of the starter into the water in the mixing bowl for your dough, add replacement water and flour (which you have out anyway because you’re making bread) to your starter and give that a quick whisk, then set your starter aside and get on with making your dough. Next day the starter is all ready to be used again. Sourdough is tough and forgiving, but adores being fed every day and 70-75 F temperatures. I usually mix it up to more of a wet-doughy consistency (it seems more hardy than a liquid starter), thinner in winter, and thicker in summer.

        Your bread is beautiful! I wish I could slash like that :).

        1. I take care of my starter exactly like that, Charity. Thanks for elaborating better than I did. 🙂

          I often bake mine in a well-seasoned 10″ cast iron skillet with cornmeal sprinkled on the bottom. Coat the loaf with flour first, too. It always slips right out. If you made a very wet dough, the skillet helps with shaping.

          Ditto to your last comment-Jennie, I admired your slashing job, too. Very pretty.

        2. Thanks for the details, Charity! I’m going to give this a go. Hopefully, we’ll be trying sourdough in the next week or so. 🙂

          I just hit upon that slashing pattern the other day. My bread kept cracking along the edges from oven spring, no matter how well slashed the top seemed. That one long slash down the middle is the one that makes it look so much nicer. The side ones are just decorative. 🙂 Also, I use a razor blade now.

  3. When I’m at the top of my game, I serve some sort of bread with each dinner too but my current reason for doing so is slightly different. It serves as a great motivation for picky young eaters to finish the first part of their meal so they can have bread and butter!!

    1. I was just telling the girls that Evie almost never eats her meat, unless I’ve chopped it in advance for her and it’s the only thing on her plate till the rest of the food gets passed. Then she eats all of her meat, and usually asks for seconds, too! But she never eats her bread. Only the butter. 🙂

      1. My two year old twins are always trying to con us into re-butteirng their bread multiple times after they eat it off. If you smear it in deeply, they just nibble off the top layer of the slice of bread to get the butter off.

        1. Ha! I just go ahead and rebutter it. Life is too short to stress over butter. 🙂

          On a more scientific note, I’ve never met a toddler who didn’t want to consume vast amounts of butter. They outgrow it by three or so, but little brains need huge quantities of fat to develop, and I suspect that’s why the deep love for butter.

  4. You don’t use your own freshly ground flour for this do you? Do you have a good bread recipe for the freshly ground flour?

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