One night when I was watching TV very late, I came across a cooking show with Mark Bittman, where he described the easiest bread recipe ever. Google sent me to this post at Steamy Kitchen. I tried the recipe and loved it, and thought you might like it too. The trick is to use a heavy oven-safe container with a lid. I use a cast iron Dutch oven that is 10 inches in diameter and about 4-5 inches deep. Other people use enamel-covered pots or deep casserole dishes with lids. (Check thrift stores before you buy a new pan.)
Below you’ll find amounts for a double recipe, which makes one big loaf and is a good amount for my pan. My family can finish it off in one meal. A smaller family would get a couple meals at least out of it.
4 cups white flour
2 cups wheat flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1/2 tablespoon salt
3 cups warm water
Mix together flour, yeast and salt. Add warm water. Mix again til well combined. It will be a very wet sloppy-looking dough. Let rise in a covered bowl for 8-24 hours. Dump dough out onto a floured counter and knead with wet hands just until top of dough is smooth. Don’t try to incorporate lots of flour– one of the reasons that this recipe works so well is because of the high water content in the dough. Re-wet your hands if dough starts to stick to you.
Once the top of dough is smooth, flop the blob onto a floured tea towel. (If you only have terrycloth towels, use a pillowcase). Set the dough, tea towel and all, into a tall narrow bowl to rise for 1-2 hours. It will still be very loose and jiggly– DON’T worry!! It will work anyway!
Near the end of the rise time, rub the inside of your pot with a little shortening and place it into the oven set on 500 degrees. Preheat pot and oven for at least 10 minutes– you want it to be good and hot. Once oven and pot are hot, lift dough out of the bowl –carry it using the tea towel like a little ‘hammock’. Flip it over into the pot, removing the tea towel. Don’t worry if it looks blobby and ugly. When it is baked, it will be a lovely rustic-looking loaf.
Put the lid on the pot. Bake, covered, in a 500 degree oven for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, remove the lid, and continue to bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove when the top is a nice golden brown. Loaf should sound hollow when thumped. If you’re not sure if it is done, you can bake it for a few minutes more without hurting anything. This is a very forgiving recipe. Last time I made this, I forgot to remove the lid, and baked it 25 minutes too long, and it still turned out beautifully.
Let me know if you try this recipe. I’d love to hear how it works for you.
This bread is wonderful with Confetti Pepperoni Soup
Or try it with Homemade Grape Jelly