Wintertime calls for cozy hibernation and creating delicious meals in the kitchen. Although it’s always a treat to get dressed up and go out to a restaurant, there’s just something so special about making your own food and devouring the finished product. It doesn’t matter if you are dining alone or with a party of 10, cooking can always be a fun experience.
Putting on some soulful tunes, lighting a few candles, and opening a good bottle of red always gets us in the mood for cooking up a meal. Whether you are re-creating restaurant finds or making it up as you go along, the food you choose to put in your body should be intentional and nourishing.
Today’s “In the Kitchen” spotlight is on one of our winter favorites…. Warm and Crunchy Artisan Bread.
Artisan bread is delicious. Perfect for soups, stews, picnic paninis (don’t forget your black and white wool blanket!), French toast, or just snacking on in the middle of the day. It’s important to plan accordingly for this one, as homemade bread needs time to rise. This recipe is so simple, soon you’ll learn how to make it with your eyes closed.
- 3 cups (24 ounces or 680 grams) lukewarm water (100°F or 38°C), plus more for the broiler tray
- 1 tablespoon (.35 ounce or 10 grams) granulated yeast (active dry, instant, quick rise, or bread machine is fine)
- 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons (.6 to .9 ounce or 9 to 12 grams) Himalayan salt, measured to taste
- 6 1/2 cups (2 pounds or 910 grams) bread flour, measured by the scoop-and-sweep method
- Warm the 3 cups water to about 100°F (40°C). In a large bowl of a standing mixer or a 6-quart container with a lid, mix the yeast, warm water, and salt. Add the flour all at once, then use a spoon or stand mixer to mix until the flour is completely incorporated. (If you’re hand-mixing the dough and it becomes too difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, just use very wet hands to press the mixture together.) Kneading is not necessary. Dough should be uniformly wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container. Ensure there are no dry patches of flour. Add 2-3 Tbs of fresh oregano or Italian spices.
- Loosely cover the container and let the dough sit at room temperature until it begins to rise. It will take about 2 hours to rise.
- After 2 hours, place the container of dough in the fridge. Once refrigerated, the dough will appear to have shrunk back upon itself as though it will never rise again—this is normal. Do not punch down the dough, as you want to retain as much gas in the dough as possible. Be sure to use the dough at some point within 14 days.
- Cut off a 1-pound piece of dough. Hold the dough and, if necessary, add just enough flour so the dough doesn’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough, tucking the ends underneath the ball and rotating it a quarter turn as you go. Your round loaf of bread should be smooth and cohesive, and the entire shaping process should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds. Place the shaped ball of dough on a prepared pizza peel and let it rest uncovered for about 40 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Preheat a baking stone on a middle rack for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Place an empty metal broiler tray on any rack that won’t interfere with the rising bread.
- Dust the top of the raised loaf generously with flour. Using a serrated bread knife, slash a 1/2-inch-deep cross or tic-tac-toe pattern in the top. Add about 1 cup of hot water to the boiler tray.
- Bake the bread for a total of 20 to 35 minutes, until the crust is richly browned and firm to the touch.
Soon your kitchen will be smelling like a French bakery. And on that note, it’s time to wrap up in my red plaid wool blanket with a cup of tea and a slice of oregano bread topped with butter and honey.