Sometimes I have days when I just don’t feel like myself. Maybe I’m encountering a few too many aches and pains that have me worried about a more serious problem. Perhaps a little stuffiness has me freaked out about catching a cold. The clouds outside may have lingered in the sky a few days in a row. I might even be dealing with a food hangover from eating out the previous night. I’m a pretty lucky girl and I try not to let little things get me down, but every once in awhile, I just can’t help it.
When this happens, I turn to things that remind me of childhood. I turn a cartoon on the TV (Finding Nemo, perhaps). I grab a stuffed animal to hold. And I like foods that are comforting. Okay, so maybe wild king salmon is on my strange list of comfort foods, but there are times when it’s not in the house or not quite comforting enough. Then I turn to bread.
I don’t eat bread much anymore, though there was a long period in my life when I ate it pretty much every day in one form or another. When I do eat bread, it either comes from Zingerman’s Bakehouse or my oven. I wanted bread the other day after eating out the previous night and being filled with all kinds of aches and pains, a double whammy. But my freezer lacked bread. I had to make some.
This was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do, but then I remembered a recipe I’d seen on The Cooking Actress blog that I wanted to try and hadn’t gotten around to yet. The original recipe called for two baguettes, but I wanted a big loaf of bread so I made One Big Baguette. What’s more impressive about this recipe is that it takes about ten minutes to put together, an hour to rise, and under half an hour to bake. Homemade bread doesn’t get easier than this. It also probably doesn’t get much tastier. The soft dense interior is surrounded by a chewy, but not too chewy crust, that it’s overly tough and crunchy like some artisan breads. It is beautifully golden brown and left me wanting to eat most of the loaf, though I didn’t. I slathered mine in American Spoon preserves, but I really can’t imagine a way this bread wouldn’t be good. Whether you’re a bread making expert or novice, I highly recommend this bread. It saved the day, made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and brought me right back to childhood. Can’t ask for more than that from a loaf of bread.
- 1 ½ cups warm water (about 110 degrees, or 2 30-second increments in the microwave)
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- In a medium bowl, place water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for about 5 minutes until it is foamy. If it is not foamy, the yeast is not alive and the bread will not rise.
- In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Once the yeast mixture is ready, stir it to incorporate any undissolved yeast and pour it into the flour mixture. Stir until dough forms a ball.
- Dump the ball of dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes, adding more flour if necessary.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Shape the dough into a loaf shape and place on the cookie sheet. Cover with a tea towel or parchment and place in a warm spot to rise for about an hour until at least doubled in size. I actually let mine go about an hour and 15 minutes because I wanted to bake it at a certain time. It’s pretty forgiving.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, make a slash down the center of the dough. Once the oven is preheated place a pan of water (I use a 9 by 13 filled with an inch or 2 of water) on the bottom rack of the oven. Allow to sit in the hot oven for about 5 minutes. Then put the bread in the oven on the rack above the water pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway through if necessary, until the bread is golden brown and firm to the touch. Allow to cool as long as you wish (it’s awesome warm). May be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 4 months. Thaw at room temperature or in a 350 degree F oven wrapped in parchment placed on foil or about 20 minutes.