Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bread, don't fail me now...

No Fail Bread

Who doesn’t love a fresh loaf of bread? Whether it’s for a group dinner with friends, to accompany your favorite soup or a neighborly gift, this bread will. Not. Fail. You. 

Not a baker you say? Neither am I.  Until a few months ago I considered a bowl of easy mac an accomplishment.  Then I had a nervous breakdown (probably not really but I really needed something to punch) and decided kneading dough was better than kneading someone’s face. 

Anyway.  Here’s what you’ll need:
·      A covered cast iron dutch oven – it can be the small one. This is not optional. It’s enclosure is what will give your bread the NOT part of Will. Not. Fail. You. 
·      Approx. 3c of self-rising flour (I’ve tried white and wheat and with this bread, I prefer white)
·      Approx 1-2c of water
·      Approx ¾ tsp of rapid rise yeast
·      Approx 1 tsp of salt (any type. Rock. SeaSalt. Table.)
·      Your favorite herbs (fresh! For the love of god, use fresh. You’re making homemade bread here, not a hot pocket)
·      Your favorite cheese. I have a lot of favorites. I’ve listed some of my favorite combinations below this recipe

I know what you’re thinking. APPROXIMATELY?! Yes. Because you’ll adjust as you go along.  Why? Because this bread will. Not. Fail. You.

Combine the dry ingredients.  Add your water while stirring. It looks shaggy and not nearly wet enough, right? Add some more water. Yup – slowly and a bit at a time until your flour is wet and shaggy.  How much water did you add total? Write it down and comment here. I can never remember. 

Add your herbs and/or cheese.  You don’t have to add them – plain is delicious too. 

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and push it to the back of your counter. Now go away.  Seriously. This needs to sit for AWHILE. I usually do mine before bed and bake it the next afternoon.  In a pinch, a few hours will do. Fair warning though, the longer it sits the lighter and fluffier your bread will be. 

Ready to bake? Preheat your oven to 350’ and once it’s warmed up put your empty dutch oven in the oven to preheat.  Now, scoop some flour on a clean counter and plop that shaggy mess on it. Your hands will be a mess but still, dig in. Work the dough a bit, getting enough flour on it to where you can touch it without it sticking to you.  Then, plop it back in the bowl and tuck the plastic wrap tightly around your ball of bread. Set your kitchen timer for 30 minutes and go wash your hands.

When the timer goes off, carefully remove your extremely hot dutch oven from your oven.  Remove the lid, plop your dough in the hot dutch oven and cover it, shove it back in your hot oven and set your alarm for another 30 minutes. Go wash your hands.  You’re so close to having a treat!

When that timer goes off remove it from the oven, turn off your oven and toss your bread out on the counter. Isn’t it gorgeous? Does it have delicate little dips and valley’s of crispy goodness? A spattering of flour? Don’t you want to just rip it apart and nom nom nom? Don’t. You’ll burn your tongue (and maybe face) and it will ruin the experience.  Wait for it to cool a bit.

Don’t store this bread until it’s completely cooled. It can take awhile. I strongly suggest you serve it still warm. You can slice it and provide proper butter/oil/dipping options, or you can simply rip it to pieces like my friends and I and eat like monsters. 

Either way – enjoy it!

Some of my favorite combinations (add these to your prepared dough)

Fresh Rosemary and grated Parmesan
Herbed Goat cheese and Thyme
Italian herb and grated cheddar
Feta, basil and kalamata olives (chop those puppies finely!)
Sea salt and black pepper
Herb de Provence (in a package from the store)

~Compliments to my bestie, Stevi (the one that had the "crisis)~