I have always baked bread at home. It was my second culinary experiment, following the birthday cake with pink paprika frosting. My mother told me, over and over, that the paprika she sprinkled on my potatoes was “just for color” and had no flavor. I believed her. She was wrong, as we discovered with her Mother’s Day cake. I used the recipe in the 1958 Betty Crocker Cookbook that I adored. I mixed, kneaded, proofed, shaped, and baked two loaves of white bread on a Winter Saturday afternoon and I was hooked. For thirty years, I followed the basic recipe I learned then. Fresh bread was a staple of my college existence and I only stopped baking my own when I worked at Ceres Bakery—I ate Shelly’s bread then.
Five years ago, we shifted to a slow rise method of bread baking. It is much easier, tastier, and better for our digestive track. Because the dough rises overnight, it is not rushed. It does not need extra gluten to hold firm. It does not produce extra gas. It is easy to digest. We love it. It also lends itself to dozens of variations—combinations of flours, added sweeteners and dried fruits, nuts and seeds, eggs and honey….the options are endless.
This is our daily bread:
- In the blue ceramic bowl, sprinkle a tablespoon and a half of yeast and cover with three cups of warm—never hot—water. Whisk. Add six and a half cups of flour—we use half hard red wheat white flour and half home ground whole wheat from Greenwillow Grains, our local wheat farmers—and a tablespoon and a half of salt. Mix with a long spoon. The dough will be wet.
- Cover the bowl with a re-used plastic produce bag and leave on the counter. Two hours is the goal, but it’s flexible. If it sits out for three, it’s fine. It should be about doubled.
- Toss in the refrigerator overnight. It can sit there for up to a week without harm, although it will tasty a little more yeasty later in the week and the dough may be a little grey. No worries, however. Its still good.
- Take out half of the dough. It may need to be sprinkled with a bit of flour if it is sticky. Work fast! Shape into a ball. Toss some cormnmeal onto your sheet pan, which has no edges so the bread can slide off.
- Let the bread rise and relax for about half an hour. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Slide your loaf onto a baking stone placed on the bottom rack—mine is always in place. Bake until it sounds hollow when thumped, which is about 40 minutes.
You can also use the dough for pizza, bread sticks rolled in cheese and chilies, sticky buns—anything that needs a slow raised dough.