Don’t do it!! No, stay away!! Don’t buy that store, full of questionable ingredients, kind of bread. Why consume preservatives, dough conditioners, GMOs, unnecessary sugar and sodium, artificial flavors and coloring, instead of making your own? At home!! No-knead, no bread machine, no hard to find ingredients. No more excuses!! Ditch the bakery. Making crispy, crusty, golden loaves of homemade country bread has never been easier.
The main purpose of that blog is to encourage and promote the feeding patterns of the Mediterranean diet and eating bread is definitely one of them. According to the famous Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, one or two servings of wholegrain cereal per meal is highly recommended. They constitute the fundamental nutritional part of the Mediterranean diet along with vegetables and fruits and it is important to be consumed in whole, unprocessed form in order to take full advantage of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and ﬁber.
“What? Have you lost your mind, girl? You tell me to eat carbs with every single meal? No way! Bread, pasta, rice are fattening foods and should be suppressed from our diet!! Bye!!”
Ok, hear me out! Foods derived from whole grains like bread, pasta, and rice are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates (dietary fiber and other polysaccharides), and we need them because they keep the body fueled for an extended period of time. Raise your hand who runs like lunatic all day long. Right! We need the energy to cope with the crazy pace of our life.
Furthermore, the nutritional bond of grains to the Mediterranean diet is also founded on the feeling of satiety. They take a longer time to digest and that’s how they are the key to fulfill hunger. As long as we feel satiated longer and we don’t starve all day long, we will easily fight food cravings and make healthier food choices.
HOWEVER, our body needs high consumption of whole grains, those that have kept their original form as when they were growing in the ﬁelds. You know, the kind of grains our ancestors used to eat before mass production invented so many ways to increase the quantity (aka profit) and destroy quality (what we eat). When a grain keeps its 3 original parts – the bran, germ, and endosperm – intact, we can fully benefit from vitamins, minerals, important antioxidants, and healthy fats. When one or more of the 3 parts is missing, the grain is considered refined and it is no more than a mere shadow of its original self. This is a bad start for a starchy product and it is getting even worse with the addition of refined sugar, artificial flavors, preservatives, etc.
Once again the perfect solution to enjoy good carbs is to choose wholegrain products (look out for the usual unhealthy ingredients) and/or cook from scratch, particularly bread. Hence I am excited to share my family homemade country bread recipe.
I’ve been looking for an easy, healthy and tasteful country bread recipe because I was like you: too busy and super tired to make my own bread. “Come on, girl!!! Just go to the bakery or the supermarket. Who has the energy to make the dough, the patience to double in size, the energy to knead and the time to bake it?” That was me before.
By the way, that recipe is neither new nor mine but it was presented in 2006 by Mark Bittman’s who introduced it from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery. Over the years, the idea to bake in a pot was extremely popular and many no-knead bread recipes came to light.*
Wait no more!! Roll up your sleeves, find 100% whole wheat (100% whole grain will do just fine) flour from your pantry and bake the most spectacular homemade country bread that takes the least of your time and amount of your effort. It is extremely convenient to bake 2 loaves, refrigerate the one and devour the other in a few days. Place the frozen bread in the refrigerator the night before and the next morning you will enjoy another loaf of freshly baked bread. My clan consumes more or less 2 loaves weekly, so I bake every weekend, usually on Sundays. I prepare the dough after breakfast for 5 minutes and after dinner, I need 5 more minutes to put the dough into the oven. It’s ridiculously easy. Really, guys, I need more time to get dressed and go to the bakery than to prepare the no-knead dough.
“I DON’T LIKE BROWN BREAD”
Does that line sound familiar? Yes, I know. Introducing whole grains into your family can be more of a tough “sell”. Should we put the blame on the color or on the funny taste? I don’t know. I am not the right person to answer because I find whole wheat products tasteful. Nevertheless, it can be challenging to introduce them but don’t just assume children will not like whole grains. Start making your bread with 1/3 of the grains from whole grains and slowly make the transition to a 100% whole grain bread like the recipe on the post. In the meantime, discuss this plan with your family and explain the reasons for this transition. Take baby steps, take your time and you are going to make it sooner or later.
In a large bowl throw into the ingredients and let the yeast do its miracle. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge for at least 10 hours. This is an excellent recipe for beginners because if you let the dough rest in the fridge, its controlled temperature gives consistent bulk fermentation and the same outcome every time. Otherwise, if you leave the dough rise at the room, the temperature fluctuates between 13ºC/55ºF in the winter and 30ºC/86ºF and upwards during summer and this temperature difference will change the consistency in your end product. In that case, you need some expertise to know when the dough is ready accordingly to room temperature.
However, someone who is already familiar with bread baking can speed up the procedure and leave the dough at room temperature, estimate the proving time and proceed easily to the baking stage. So if you leave the dough at room temperature, it needs approximately 6 hours to rise.
SHAPE THE LOAVES
When the dough has risen and looks bubbly and stretched out, you are ready to go. The fun part begins! Dust your work surface with flour. Let’s say, half cup for start and add accordingly if the dough is too sticky. Then just fold it over on itself 4-5 times. I often use a silicone spatula for the folding part and then my hands to roughly shape it into a ball. With a knife divide the dough into halves and give them the final shape by folding and/or lightly knead, just to roughly shape them. Dust lightly the loaves with flour and they won’t stick to the pot. Additionally, you will give that rustic, country, artisan-style bread.
Until your oven-safe pot is heated, your loaves will rise some more.
For baking, you will need either an oven-safe pot with or without a lid or a simple bread pan. If the lid isn’t oven-safe, you can cover the pot with parchment paper (unfolded, just leave it on top of the bread).
I usually make two round loaves and I bake them into my ceramic pot with a lid. The lid keeps the moisture in the pot and increases the rate of transfer of energy between the oven and the bread and that is the success behind the no-knead bread in the pot. To ensure the perfect baking, the pot/pan must be super extra hot before baking, so leave it in the oven at least half an hour at 500 °F/260°C. So, place the covered pot with a rack in the lower third position without the dough.
Dutch oven and other cast iron pots may need more time up to one hour or so. Remember, we want them extra hot in order to welcome the dough inside!
Put carefully the shaped dough in the pot/pan and leave the lid for half an hour at 392°F/200°C. Then remove it. Bake for another 15 to 30 minutes. Insert a sharp knife into the middle of the bread. If it comes out with batter stuck to it, the bread needs more time. If it comes out dry, the bread is ready. Let cool completely on a rack, neither in the oven nor in the pot. Give at least 2 hours to cool down because the bread continues to cook as it cools.
I haven’t ever baked my homemade country bread in simple bread pans and I baked recently my first batch. It turned out just fine, maybe more dense for my liking but still a very decent homemade country bread. The only difference was that I didn’t use a lid but I covered the bread with parchment paper. Well, it’s a fact, guys! Whatever you do this bread turns out just awesome every single time!
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try a combination of flours, add nuts, raisins, oil olives, feta cheese almost everything you like. Follow the basic steps and this recipe won’t fail, I promise!
Just like cooking, baking improves with practice. Baking the same recipe every week has advantages like correction of past mistakes, for instance. In a few weeks, you will be an expert home baker and the most important you will enjoy the fruits of your labor with family and friends. Sweet!
Now, I have to end this post…. A big bowl of dough is screaming. “Bake me, baaake meeee”.
HOMEMADE COUNTRY BREAD
- 7 cups (1kg) 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain flour *
- 2 tablespoons (18g) dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt or less optional
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar optional
- 3 cups (700ml) tap water
- In a big bowl mix the flour, salt and sugar (optional) together. Add the yeast and mix. Pour gradually the water and stir using a spatula or a spoon until the flour is well incorporated and distributed. Take your time because the flour needs a couple of minutes to fully absorb the water. It is possible to need more water if the flour hasn’t been absorbed. Pour water gradually (no more than 1 tablespoon each time) until the dough is evenly sticky and shaggy. Don't rush. The dough should be neither too dry nor too runny.
- Cover the bowl with a wet towel or plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature approximately 6 hours until it doubles its size. If time allows, cover the bowl, transfer to the fridge and let sit overnight (10-12 hours).
- Preheat the oven to 500 °F (260°C), with a rack in the lower third position, and place the covered pot(s)/baking pan(s) (with the lid on if there is one) in the center of the rack. Leave the pot(s)/pan(s) for half an hour and the Dutch oven/cast iron pot for up to one hour.
- Meanwhile, dust lightly your work surface with flour. Scrape the loose and sticky dough out of the bowl. With your floured hands or a spatula fold it over on itself 4-5 times. If you are going to make 2 loaves, use a knife and divide the dough into halves. Fold once more and lightly knead, just to roughly shape the loaf (or loaves). Until your oven-safe pot(s)/baking pan(s) is (are) heated, leave your loaf (or loaves) to raise some more on the bench.
- Put carefully the dough in the pot(s)/pan(s) and cover them. (Be extremely careful because the lids are super hot.) If there isn't a lid, put the dough in and cover the pot(s)/pan(s) with parchment paper or foil. Leave the lid on (or parchment paper or foil) for half an hour at 392°F/200°C. Then really carefully remove the cover and bake for another 15 minutes. Insert a sharp knife into the middle of the bread (all the way to the bottom). If it comes out with batter stuck to it, the bread needs more time, approximately 10 minutes. If it comes out dry, the bread is ready.
- Let your loaf or loaves cool completely on a rack, about 2 hours.
* Recipe adapted from http://www.dairy-free.eu/bread-in-pot/