++ UPDATE My fellow blogger friend John, who I mention below, recently made one loaf of ‘Farmhouse Bread’. He was very pleased with the results – in spite of the fact he forgot the dough rising in the oven… for 4 hours! I recently read bloggers should not begin a post by apologizing for having been out-of-touch.. that is.. unless you’ve been doing something noteworthy, such as vacationing. So, I’ll use that as my excuse because I did just return from a trip to Mexico. I spent a week at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort in Playacar Del Carmen, Mexico, and it was all-inclusive and totally wonderful. I baked these loaves and took the photos before I left, planning to post the recipe while in Mexico….but I left the recipe at home… Liz, who writes the excellent food blog ‘My Favorite Pastime‘, wrote to me (after I whined to her how I’d forgotten the recipe), “Have a great time. You can always post the recipe once you get home”. And John, ‘From the Bartolini Kitchens‘, told me, “You’ll find the recipe when you least expect it”. It turns out they were both right & I thank them for their words of wisdom. So – without further ado – here’s the recipe for ‘Farmhouse Bread‘, which makes two beautiful loaves quicker than any bread recipe I’ve ever seen simply because you don’t have to wait for the bread to rise twice!
** If you have any questions or comments, keep scrolling down. I love to hear from you !!
- 1 TABLESPOON (1 packet) active dry yeast ++ NOT ‘quick rise’ yeast
- 1 TABLESPOON sugar
- 1 TABLESPOON salt
- 2 cups warm water ++ The water should not be over 110F. ++ Heat up your measuring cup first by running hot water over it, then fill it with warm water ++ Check the water temperature by pouring a bit on your wrist – it should feel slightly warm.
- 5 1/2 to 6 cups All-Purpose Flour ++ Some bread recipes in the States ask for ‘Bread Flour’.. but not this particular recipe.
- Cornmeal, to spread on bottom of a cookie sheet – OR – use parchment paper, which I prefer.
In a large bowl mix together 1 Tbs. active dry yeast, 1 Tbs. sugar, 1 Tbs. salt and 2 cups warm water. Allow mixture to stand 4 – 5 minutes while the yeast ‘eats up the sugar’, the combination of which will make the bread rise!
++ Everything will foam up a bit, which means the yeast is working. If you don’t see any ‘bubbling’, your yeast is too old. (Been there…. done that…)
Gradually add the flour to the liquid and mix thoroughly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Adding Flour to the Yeast, Sugar, Salt & Water Mixture
++ Making bread is not an exact science. One time you may need a bit more flour and another time you may need a bit less. I ended up adding a bit more warm water because my dough was too dry and some of the flour wouldn’t incorporate into the dough. Don’t be afraid to ‘play around’ until the dough just feels right. You can always add a bit more flour when you’re kneading the dough.
Remove the dough and place on a lightly floured surface.
++ I like to use a floured dish towel. (Tea towel for our British friends!) Knead dough 5 minutes.
++ To knead dough, push away from you with the palm of your hand, turn dough, fold over and repeat. If dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour. If it’s still sticking to the floured surface.. yup.. add a bit more flour.
++ If you’re interested, here’s why kneading is necessary. (Adapted from ‘The Wise Geek’.) “One of the most important things taking place during the kneading process is the development of gluten, a type of protein. As the flour is moistened and stirred, gluten begins to form. This protein (gluten) acts as a binding agent within the dough, allowing the loaf to take on a cohesive texture so it doesn’t fall apart during baking.”
Let the dough rest while you wash & dry the bowl. Using your hands, spread some oil (I use olive oil) around the inside of the bowl. Knead dough again for 2 to 3 minutes. Place dough in the oiled bowl and turn dough over once to oil the top.
Kneaded Dough & Baking Pan with Hot Water
Cover bowl with a damp towel and keep warm until dough doubles in size – between 1 – 2 hours. SEE TIP BELOW !!
++ Here’s what I do to speed up the process. Place a large baking pan containing HOT water on the bottom rack of your oven. Place the covered bowl containing the dough into the oven and close the door. Check between 45 minutes to an hour – your dough may have risen enough. If the dough has doubled in bulk, then it’s ready for the next step. If not, just wait a bit longer. (The original directions, from King Arthur Flour, say to let dough rise between 1 – 2 hours.)
Risen Dough – Ready to be ‘Punched Down’
Dough After Being ‘Punched Down’ (I think it looks a bit sad…)
Once you’ve punched down the dough with your fists, knead the dough briefly right in the bowl to get out any large air bubbles. Return dough to lightly floured surface. ( I thought this bread was so much fun to make. The dough begins to rise again almost immediately after being punched down.)
Ready to be Formed into Loaves
Cut dough in half using either a knife or kitchen shears. You don’t have to be overly fussy with it. Just try to end up with two pieces of dough pretty much the same size. Form each half into Italian or French styles loaves. I went for a more rustic Italian look – if you’d like the same look, form dough into two 8″ – 9″ loaves. Place the loaves on a cookie sheet generously sprinkled with cornmeal OR use parchment paper, which I prefer. Allow loaves to rest 5 minutes.
++ If the cookie sheet is lined with parchment paper, you can form the loaves right on the cookie sheet – which is what I do. Slash the tops 3 or 4 times diagonally. Brush loaves with cold water. ++ I sprinkled my loaves with sesame seeds but it’s not necessary.
Shaped, Slashed and Ready to Rise ‘n Bake.
As you can see, the dough has already risen quite a bit since I formed it into loaves!
This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in bread making. You don’t have to wait for a 2nd rising. Your loaves are going to rise in the oven! Place the cookie sheet containing the loaves into a COLD OVEN!! Refill the baking pan you’d use before with BOILING WATER and return it to the bottom rack of the oven.
++ Caution – – don’t fill the baking pan too full with boiling water. The water’s going to slosh around a lot and you could get burned !
Place shaped loaves on the center rack of your oven – then set temperature to 400F.
++ As your loaves are rising, don’t be alarmed if they get so big the sides touch. That happened to me, so I just broke them apart after they cooled a bit.
Bake bread for 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the bread sounds hollow to the touch.
++ For a softer crust, which I like, spread butter on the still-warm loaves. (The butter gives the loaves that lovely sheen.)
Remove loaves from baking sheet and allow to cool.. not for long… just until it’s cooled enough so you can hold on to the bread while you cut a nice, big piece and slather it with butter. Enjoy!
P.S. My neighbor said this is the best bread she’s ever eaten! Of course, she might’ve just said that so I keep coming over with ‘goodies’!!
** Adapted from King Arthur Flour’s – “Hearth Bread”. King Arthur Flour’s ‘Flagship Campus’, as they call it, is located in Norwich, Vermont. It’s a wonderful place to visit, so drop by if you’re ever in the area!