When was the last time you had freshly-baked bread hot from the oven? Maybe, like most people, you can’t remember the last time you had homemade bread. We had some with dinner, but that isn’t a big deal around here; we have homemade bread four or five nights a week. Granted, it isn’t a soft, sandwich-type loaf but it is delicious just the same.
I’m not telling you this to brag; I’m trying to tell you how easy it is so that you can do it too!
This summer I started baking my own bread in an effort to eat more slowly. When I started making my own cheese, homemade bread became a natural use of the gallons and gallons of whey leftover after cheese production. I experimented with lots of recipes, but this is by far my favorite due to the fact that it is so easy. The recipe is from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day“, and it really only does take five minutes a day. Well, it takes a little longer, but you only have to spend five minutes a day dealing with it. Plus, if you are frugal like me, you’ll appreciate these loaves not only for their ease, but for their value. This bread is just like the fancy-shmancy loaves you can buy for $4-$7 at the local bakery and only costs pennies to make.
Here is my variation:
1 1/2 T. yeast (1 1/2 packets)
1 1/2 T. kosher salt
6 1/2 cups spelt flour (or whole wheat)
Warm the whey and sprinkle the yeast onto it. You don’t need to let the yeast rest, just pour the yeast and whey into a large mixing bowl and add the salt.
Stir in the flour. Mix with a wooden spoon or other sturdy utensil until all the flour is moistened. The dough will be fairly wet.
Loosely cover the bowl and place in a warm spot for two or more hours. You can use plastic wrap, but I use a damp kitchen towel or cloth napkin because it is more earth-friendly and because I hate to spend money on plastic wrap. Ignoring the dough for up to five hours will have no negative effect on the final product.
Using well-floured hands and a serrated knife, scoop out a grapefruit-sized ball of dough and shape it into a roundish loaf by repeatedly tucking the edges under. This takes some practice and you have to keep adding flour to your hands unless you want to end up like a cartoon character all covered with a sticky mess of dough.
Place the loaf onto a well-floured plate or board to rise. You can use cornmeal, but I’ve had better luck with flour. (Excessive amounts as you can see in the picture.)
Loosely re-cover the remaining dough (with the same kitchen towel you used last time :) ) and refrigerate until you are ready to make another loaf. This dough can remain in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Place a broiler pan or an old metal baking pan on the bottom oven rack. Preheat the oven and a pizza stone to 450 degrees while your round loaf rises. This should take about 40 minutes and will allow the stone to get nice and hot.
When the oven and stone are nice and hot and your loaf is ready to bake, quickly transfer the loaf to the hot pizza stone. Using a well-floured and very sharp serrated knife, slash the top of the loaf one or more times. Carefully pour a cup of water into the pan on the bottom rack, place your loaf in the oven and close the door to trap steam. Bake about 30 minutes.
In another day or two when you are ready to bake another loaf, pull the dough out of the refrigerator, cut off another hunk of dough and let it rise while the oven warms. Depending on the size of your loaves, this recipe should make three or four loaves.