One of my favorite college meals was Bread and Soup. The dining hall did it, as a fundraiser. We had several choices of steaming hot soup, delicious bread and fruits. At my house we do the same, regularly. Not only because soup may be the easiest meal to make ahead of time, but it’s priced right, filling and feels homey.
I don’t always make the bread (my local grocery store usually has a great selection of day old bakery bread for under $1), so typically I just buy some of that. But, when time permits, this is my all time favorite, easy, bread recipe.
No Knead Bread. That’s right NO kneading required. It’s so easy, so good, and I make it in my dutch oven, the smell… ohhhhh laaaaa laaaa.
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
- ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
- Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
- In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
- Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes. I’ve been using wax paper, or upside down colander (the plastic wrap always sticks, even when floured).
- Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger. -I don’t do all this. Probably should, but I just shape it into a ball, cover with wax paper or a colander on top of wax paper and put it in my oven (not turned on) just so it’s not sitting out in my kitchen. I take it out of the oven before the baking is to begin.
- At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
The directions give you a good guideline. After you’ve made it a few times, you’ll tweak the recipe too. May be add some rosemary or garlic powder, once you’ve done the basic, play with it. But, paired with potato leek soup, or just about anything, this artisan looking bread is so easy… so good…. everyone will think you worked all day to make a hearty, homey dinner…. not so!
Add a few slices of fruit (maybe some oranges for vitamin c) and you have a great meal!