The title of this post and the halcyon appearance of my last post might lead you to believe that I do nothing but enjoy a life of leisure since I made the transition to home. Not so. I’ve been working my butt off! (Figuratively speaking, of course… although climbing up and down hills does have its merits.)
Part of my “back to the basics” kick has been to create a space conducive to writing — inside and out — household and self included.
This has meant perspiring in the 90°+ mid-day heat as needed, pushing my proverbial boundaries, and hacking away at a four-page “to do” list until it’s no longer dangling over my head. (My brain is funny that way.) Some folks call it all-or-nothing syndrome; I prefer to call it “no more excuses.”
Between this influx of activity, I worked up a powerful hunger. (A girl’s gotta eat, ya know…)
Food-wise (in my opinion), there’s nothing more basic than bread. With a history spanning thousands of years and variations ranging from flat to fluffy, bread has graced many a table and sustained multitudes of generations. Who can resist its universal appeal? (Even Maria von Trapp extolled its virtues: do re mi fa so la TI….. with jam and bread.) ;)
Soft, warm, crunchy… homemade bread presents pillowy pockets of opportunity, waiting to soak up a smear of butter, a spoonful of jam, a drizzle of honey, a dab of peanut butter, or — my perennial favorite — gravy. (You haven’t lived until you’ve “sopped gravy,” as many a Southerner can attest.)
But, it was too hot too think about gravy, so here we are again… “back at the very beginning.”
The best “basic” bread I’ve eaten in recent history was inspired by Alice D’Antoni Phillips of Ally’s Kitchen. Profuse thanks, Ally! It truly fulfilled my basic requirements. (And made wonderful croutons!)
(adapted from Rustic Boho Buttermilk Bread, linked above)
3 to 3-1/2 c. all-purpose flour, divided
1 tsp. sea salt
1 (1/4 oz.) pkg. active dry yeast
2 1/2 Tbsp. warm water (110° F)
1/2 tsp. sugar (I added some to speed things along)
1 c. buttermilk, at room temperature (or a scant cup of milk “soured” with 1 T. lemon juice)
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for the “rising” bowl and baking sheet
First, whisk together 2-1/2 cups of flour and the salt; set aside.
Next, lightly oil a large bowl; set aside.
In another large bowl, combine yeast and water (and sugar, if using); stir to break up any lumps.
When mixture is foamy (about 5 – 10 minutes), stir in buttermilk (or sour milk) and olive oil until combined.
Add 1 cup of the flour/salt mixture; mix well. (I used a sturdy wooden spoon.)
Add the next cup of flour/salt mixture; mix well. (Ditto.)
Add enough of the remaining flour/salt mixture to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. (I used my hands at this point.)
Sprinkle remaining “plain” flour on a flat surface. (Note to self: sprinkle first, then get hands sticky.)
Turn dough onto floured surface; knead 5 to 10 minutes. (Note to you: only knead in enough flour to keep it from sticking!)
Place dough in previously oiled bowl; turn “bottom side up” so the oiled surface is topside.
Cover with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place until double. (Approximate rising time is 1-1/2 to 2 hours, depending on how “active” your yeast is.)
Punch down dough; let rest 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450° F and lightly oil the middle of a large baking sheet. (No need to oil the whole sheet.)
Turn dough onto floured surface again; knead 3 to 5 minutes, then shape into one long baguette. (I rolled it like a Playdough “rope” — FUN!) (By the way, the original recipe makes two loaves… much as I love bread, I can only eat so much.)
Place baguette on oiled baking sheet.
With a sharp knife, make diagonal slashes in the top, 3″ apart.
Bake 15 minutes at 450° F. Reduce heat to 350° F; bake 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when you “thump” on it. (The original recipe called for 20 to 25 minutes of additional baking time, but a single loaf only required 10 to 15 minutes.)
Break out the butter and jam.
Enjoying the basic-ness of bread — and writing,