The bread aisle of a grocery store, basically heaven for carb lovers like myself. I love how you can smell the yeasty bread before you even get to the aisle, like it’s trying to lure you in. A couple years ago I was on my usual trip to the grocery store, and went to grab some bread. I guess on this day I was feeling particularly curious, and looked at the ingredients in the bread I chose before putting it in my cart. To my surprise there were what seemed like a million ingredients, that couldn’t be pronounced on the nutrition label. I placed the science experiment, that was disguised as bread, back on the shelf and searched the aisle for a new option. I ended up finding a loaf of bread that was locally made, and had the minimal ingredients you would expect to see in bread. Over the last couple years I have been a devout buyer, and tried a slew of their bread varieties.
However, I recently started to wonder how easy it would be to make my own bread. Now, I should mention that the only times I had made bread before this were several failed attempts in college to make whole wheat, which tasted and felt like a brick. So to say that I was a little intimidated was an understatement. But nonetheless, I set out on my bread baking journey, and obviously turned to the internet researching which breads were easiest to make for beginners. That’s when I stumbled upon recipe after recipe for peasant bread, you know the kind they serve in movies about princesses and medieval knights? Yeah, that. So after trying and tweaking a few recipes, I came up with perfect peasant bread. This bread has a crusty outside with a soft chewy inside, and is best smeared with butter. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also try adding herbs, nuts, or dried fruit. I hope you enjoy!
Bake: 450 F
Prep time: 26 Hours
Bake Time: 50-60 Minutes
Total Time: 27 Hours
2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Flour; for dusting
Combine the bread flour, whole-wheat flour, yeast and salt in mixer with the dough hook attached. Add 1 and 1/2 cups lukewarm water (about 100-110 degrees F) and mix until the dough comes together (it will be wet and sticky). Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap. If you have extra time, refrigerate 12 to 24 hours; this is not necessary but will improve the flavor of the bread (basically it will make it taste more like a sourdough).
Let the dough rise, covered, at room temperature for about 24 hours (I put the bread out overnight and will start baking when I get home from work); this rise is necessary whether you refrigerate the dough first or not. The surface will be bubbly after rising.
Generously dust a work surface with all-purpose flour. Turn the dough out onto the flour, then sprinkle flour on top. Fold the top and bottom of the dough into the center, then fold in the sides to make a free-form square. Use a dough scraper or a spatula to turn the dough over, then tuck the corners under to form a ball.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and generously dust with flour. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet, seam-side down, and sprinkle with more flour. Cover with a cotton kitchen towel (do not use terry cloth) and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 2 to 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Position your oven racks at the bottom of the oven. Place a 2- or 4-quart cast-iron or enameled Dutch oven (without the lid) -I use my Le Creuset, in the preheated over to warm up for at least 30 minutes. When the dough has doubled, carefully take dutch oven out of the oven and place on heat proof surface. Uncover the dough, lift up the parchment and place the entire thing (dough and parchment paper) into the pot (shake the pot to center the dough, if necessary). Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes, after the 30 minutes uncover the dutch oven, baking the bread until brown and crusty, about 20 more minutes. Turn out onto a rack to cool