There are some food products that we’ve become so accustomed to buying from stores, packed with preservatives and contained in plastic (or free from preservatives with the prices jacked up), that we’ve constructed this notion that the reason that this product is so available and expensive is because it’s a pain in the ass to make yourself. Bread is one of these products.
Anyone who has tasted warm bread fresh from the oven can relate to the craving of eating an entire loaf in thirty minutes or less. It’s like a re-education in something we think we’ve known our whole lives. This is what bread is supposed to taste like – so good that I’m puzzled by the fact that more people don’t bake their own.
Maybe it’s the demonization of gluten that’s to blame, or carbs in general. Maybe it’s those bread machine monstrosities that were all the rage as Christmas gifts in the 2000’s, eerily creaking and grunting through the night while you waited for that strange, misshapen loaf to appear the next morning. Some people may be put off by the time required to let the dough rise, but c’mon, you don’t have to babysit the thing. Do some chores, watch Netflix, or meet a friend for coffee and casually slip into conversation over your bread on the go back at home (most likely to be met with praise, admiration and envy).
The bottom line is that fresh bread tastes great, impresses people, and is really quite easy to make. Here’s a simple recipe from Belinda Harley’s Roast Lamb in the Olive Groves for country bread, which she describes as a “robust version of a bloomer,” perfect for dunking into various dips. Try it out and it may save you from shedding tears into that puny container of hummus you just picked up from Loblaws for five bucks.
Ingredients: 4 cups white bread flour 1 sachet (8g) Fleishmann’s instant dried yeast 1 ½ tsp salt 3 tsp olive oil 1 "⅓" cups water
Tools: Mixing bowl & spoon Measuring cup & teaspoon Flat surface Pastry brush (or use fingers) Plastic wrap or damp dishtowel Plastic bag Baking sheet Parchment paper
Dump flour into mixing bowl and add yeast. Then add salt, two teaspoons of olive oil and three-quarters of the water. Stir mixture while continuing to add water little by little, eventually using your hands to gather the dough into a soft mass.
Brush olive oil over a clean, flat work surface and knead dough for ten minutes until it is smooth and silky. Wash the mixing bowl and lightly oil the inside. Place dough in the oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, two hours or so. Use this time to get shit done, such as laundry, grocery shopping, or calling granny.
Lightly cover work surface with flour, place dough on it and knock out air by folding dough over itself, time after time until dough becomes smooth. Shape into a large oval, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and seal sheet in a plastic bag. Wait one hour. Invite friends over to take part in bread-eating festivities.
Heat oven to 410 degrees. Paint top of dough with olive oil to give it a golden finish. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when turned over and tapped with your knuckle on the base. Allow a few minutes for cooling, then tear apart and enjoy.