You don’t need a bread maker. You don’t need any special flour. All you need is some water, a couple of cups of all purpose unbleached, and a packet of yeast.
I generally make a loaf of this each weekend to give my household its bread fix through most of the week.
Depending on what’s planned for lunches, I’ll use the same dough to make rolls as well. This is very versatile and can be used in a number of ways, whether you’re planning on drizzling it with honey, smothering with jam, turning it into chewy garlic knots, or making a Dagwood. I always use King Arthur’s All Purpose Unbleached flour, but really you can use pretty much anything with this. That’s one of the greatest things about bread – mix together roughly the right ingredients and you’ll still wind up with bread.
Easy Peasant Bread
2 cups luke warm water
1 packet yeast (regular or rapid rise, it really doesn’t matter)
1 TBSP sugar or honey (your preference and, yes, the honey flavor will come through)
2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups flour
1 TBSP Herbs de Provence (optional)
Heat up one cup of the water by either microwaving it for 1 minute or simmering on the stove until bubbles just barely begin to form at the bottom. Remove the water from the heat, pour into a small mixing bowl, and add in the sugar or honey to dissolve. Add the remaining cup of water (room temperature/straight from the tap) to the 1 cup heated water. Ideally, the two cups of sugared water should be between 95-110 degrees once combined. I stick my finger into the bowl and if it’s slightly warmer than room temperature, it’s good to go. You can also use a cup of your favorite beer in lieu of the cup of cold water to add a little more flavor to your bread. Sprinkle the packet of yeast over the top of the warm water and let it proof for 10 minutes are so. It should get a bit bubbly. If it all sinks to the bottom, the water was too warm and you’ve murdered your yeast. My condolences.
While your yeast is proofing, set to work on the dry ingredients. In a large bowl whisk together the salt, flour, and herbs if using. If you want to make garlic knots, now would be the time to swap out the Herbs de Provence with Italian seasoning or basil & oregano, add 1 TBSP garlic powder, and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Once the yeast is nice and bubble-tastic pour it over the flour mixture. You can use a mixer with a dough hook attachment if you’d like, but really the best tool for the job is your hands. Using your fingers and palm like a spatula, mix and fold the ingredients together until if forms a ragged dough. It should be fairly wet and sticky. Make sure you run the side of your hand around the edge of the bowl as well as incorporating all the flour at the bottom. Do not over mix the dough with a hook or your palm, otherwise it will get tough. You can still use it to make bread, but it will have a far less pleasing texture.
Once all the ingredients are mixed well and you have a nice, cohesive, albeit sticky dough, let it rest in the bowl, covered with a damp towel or plastic wrap in a warm area for an hour or so. It should puff up quite a bit, if not double in size. Once this happens, the dough is proofed and you have a few options.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
You can spray a pyrex (8″ x8″) with non-stick spray or butter it and turn your dough right into it to rise a second time. That’s what I’ve done in these pictures. Allow the dough to sit about 20-30 minutes or until your oven is heated. It will rise during baking. Before putting the dough into the oven, slice the top about 1/2 inch down with a sharp knife or cut the corners toward the center, make 4 slashes that ultimately look like an X. This is optional, but adds to a golden brown crispy crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
You can also flour your counter top, turn your dough out, flour the top, and cut into rolls or knots.
If you do rolls, tear off a small ball of dough from the bowl, about 2-3 inches or so in diameter, and pat to the desired shape. Space each roll on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick or with parchment paper about 1 inch apart and bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
If you decide to do knots, roll out the dough into logs about 6-8 inches long and about 3/4 inch thick. Loosely tie in a knot, and place on a cookie sheet the same as directed with the rolls. Brush with 2 TBSP melted butter mixed with 3 tsps garlic powder, 2 tsp dried parsley, salt, and pepper or sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for about 22 minutes or until lightly golden brown. I made the below ones a little crisper than normal this time, but they’re nice and chewy when they’re a little less done.
Which ever shape you choose, do your best to allow your bread to cool for 20 minutes or so. It’s hard to wait this out, believe me. And your house will smell amazing.
Use you bread to accompany an Italian food feast, eggs in the morning, ham & swiss for lunch, or just with a little butter and drizzle of honey for a snack.