My go-to slow&easy bread recipe

Imma start with a disclaimer:  I reviewed  “no-knead bread” recipes from my cookbook collection & the interwebs, noted the elements they had in common, and came up with this recipe designed for minimum work. There are MANY similar recipes with lots of excellent pictures & far more interesting backstories, and they’re all adaptable. I encourage you to explore them like I did.

(This wouldn’t be my blog if it didn’t immediately wander into a digression, right?)

I’ll put a couple of my favorite recipe variations at the bottom of the post.

NECESSARY INGREDIENTS

Dry components:

3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon or more instant/bread machine yeast.
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet components:

1 1/2 cups liquid

-The liquid can be water, milk, honey, fats like oil or melted butter or any combination of them…be as creative as you like. As long as the total liquid component is 1.5 cups, the recipe ALWAYS works out for me.
-Yes, that’s the same as 12 oz for those of you thinking, “Beer bread?”

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Mix or sift together dry ingredients in a Big Bowl
  2. Add the liquid, stir until it’s fully combined into a dough.
    How do you know it’s combined? It’s not sticking to the bowl & there’s no dry flour sitting in the bottom.  I see the word “shaggy” used in a lot of recipes. Whatever.
  3. Let rest 12-24 hrs. I usually go a full day, because my house is cool & the rise is slow.
    AFTER THE RISE
  4. Shape into rolls or into a round loaf or whatever combo of rolls & loaves you want.
  5. Grease appropriate baking dishes or line with parchment.  I like oil spray. It’s easy.
  6. Let dough rise again in the baking dish(es) 1 to 4 hours.
    Using the fancy proofer setting on my fancy new oven, they’re usually re-inflated & ready to rock after an hour.
  7. PREHEAT oven to 400 degrees. Yes, pre-heating matters for this.
  8. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-45 minutes depending on loaf/roll size.
    I use a thermometer to test doneness because I always overcook if I do it by eye.
    Internal temp of 200+ degrees F = done.

That’s it. Mix, wait, shape, wait, bake. One bowl, no mess on the counter, no “proving” the yeast, no specific kneading steps, no fuss.

AND NOW THE RANDOM EXTRA REMARKS

SCIENCE TIP 1: temperature of the liquid isn’t critical–BUT NOT OVER 115 degrees F, that will kill the yeast. The dough will take longer to rise if it starts cold. As long as the room is over 68-70 degrees, it will rise overnight. The warmer the room is, the faster it will rise. The more yeast you use, the faster it’ll rise. Want quicker yeast bread?  put in 2-3 tsp of yeast instead of 1/2 tsp. Be warned, though, the dough may not be as easy to handle.

SCIENCE TIP 2: Of COURSE you can use regular dried yeast instead of instant/bread machine — but do get it bubbling in a bit of warm water first unless you want to wait even LONGER for the rising, and obviously add it with the liquid.

SCIENCE TIP 3: In one of those little heads-cratchers of baking science, the more sugar you add to a recipe, the longer/more unpredictable the rise time. (the phenomenon is well known to watchers of the Great British Bake off, where it was the bane of many a baker.)

SCIENCE TIP 4: less/zero fat = crustier bread with chewier texture & more open structure. more fat = softer bread & longer before it goes hard & stale.  I almost always end up using a couple of tbsps of fat in my liquid component. But I never make the liquid all fat. Because ye gobs, that would be greasy bread.

PROCEDURAL REMARK 1: Toss a bit of flour on top of the dough in the bowl before you start to make it easier to handle. Or keep your hands wet. Either works.

PROCEDURAL REMARK 2:  to get a batch of exactly same-sized rolls, first divide the dough in THIRDS, then divide each third in half, then each of those halves in half. You end up with 12 nice, even pieces.

PROCEDURAL REMARK 3: I’m not getting into details of how to “properly” shape bread or what kind of pan makes the “best” bread. It’s too dependent on what result you want, and this dough is super-forgiving. Squish, pull, roll, tug, whatever makes you happy, until it’s in the & sizes shapes you want. And cook it in whatever you have handy.
I use an 13×9 pan for rolls or a casserole/dutch oven for large loaves, but it’s baker’s choice.  I will note that if I use the dutch oven for a big loaf, I cook w/lid on for half the time, then off for the rest. Experiment to your heart’s content.

TWO VARIATIONS

Cider cinnamon bread: add 1/2 c. brown sugar & 1+ tsp cinnamon to the dry ingredients, Liquid component:  2 tbsp butter plus even amounts of milk & apple cider to get to 12 oz, nuke until the butter melts.

Herbed bread: add an extra 1/2 tsp of salt plus 2 TABLEspoons of mixed herbs to the dry ingredients. Liquid component:  1 c. water & 1/4 c. olive oil. Spray tops of rolls/loaf w/oil  or egg wash & sprinkle on kosher salt for extra yumminess.

And that’s all the all there is until later. Keep on keeping on, and have more bread pics:

 

Latest in New House Adventures

crocus bud

I promised a more cheerful post. This is as close as it gets.

The header photo comes from my yard, where spring is springing on.  Happy little crocus flower, reminding me the world keeps turning and the best thing to do is keep on keeping on. (Which for a crocus means fighting frost and dodging bunny teeth. In my case it means practicing kindness, taking ALL the precautions, & looking for new ways to help others.)

Working on fiction is hard when the real timeline is doing the whole “truth stranger than fiction” thing. Not much to share on that front.

But!  There was progress on the basement renovation before things slowed to a cautious COVID-19 related crawl. Let’s peek in on that, shall we?

First, the whatnot room. I don’t have “before” pics of this zone from the real estate listing or from move-in. It’s hard to take a good pic of an unlighted room filled with paint-splashed chunky workbenches, low-hanging pipery, gnarly wiring, and beadboard walls enclosing some sealed plumbing leftover from a 1930’s vintage throne-style toilet.

Yeah. So the first image I had of this area was taken after extensive demo & cleanup, and it was none too appealing even then.

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And now

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Look, new floors! And lighting!

The window has a deep frame just begging me to put plants there, and there are LIGHTS, and VENTILATION, and in the background on the right? That’s going to be a half bath soon. We’ll go from 1 toilet to 3 when it’s complete, and let me tell you, I am giddy about that.

See, the 1st floor bathroom has also been out of commission during the construction–to get the drains & pipes upgraded. Well worth it, and I don’t regret the decision, but…um…let’s just say that now that Spouseman & I are both home all day long every day, I am really looking forward to having multiple toilets again.

Anyway. Onward to the mechanicals area.

This was another hard zone to get “before” pics of, due to lack of lighting and general ick factor. Now it’s all brightly lit and open, with a window that works, and an upgraded circuit breaker box behind that swank wood panel.  Washer & dryer are scheduled to arrive Tuesday, so I’m hoping things stay below the Dire Catastrophe level & delivery goes as planned.

(Small digression to point out this hope is grounded in wanting PEOPLE TO NOT BE DYING, not about me not being inconvenienced by a deadly fucking pandemic. Does that sound grumpy? Well, I might be a little bit raw from CONSTANTLY seeing my name associated with a zillion tweets & memes about being insensitive, selfish, pushy, whiny, entitled, tone-deaf, arrogant, clueless, nasty, and generally awful. Maybe. But I’ll rant about that in another post. THIS MY HAPPY POST.)

ANYway. Back from digression to take a look at the main hall. The part of the basement people see first, coming downstairs. It kinda sets the whole tone.

outer basement 1
Yeah. That sets a tone.
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Now. Lights! Doors! Window frames!

The floors here are under protective covers right now while the trim & moldings go in, but it’s fresh & bright and so easy to see how comfy & cozy it will be when it’s done.

And it SMELLS good. (happy, happy sigh.)

Okay. that’s more than enough for one update. As usual, I’m now questioning whether I should even post it, (see above re:self-doubts on the topics of selfishness & tone-deaf bragging etc)  But I AM gonna post it, and here’s why: when I get scared & overwhelmed, being reminded of good things happening anywhere lifts my spirits.

Things are hard right now for so many people, in so many ways, and this a big happy in my life. So if even one other person feels the way I do about collecting other-happies, that makes sharing (inflicting?) this on the world worthwhile. Right?

I’ll just have to hope so.

Until later, friends.

Living the Quiet Online Life (sorta)

Followup 2 to my “Imma stop feeling guilty about dodging the gotta-be-visible-gotta-react-gotta-be-involved 24/7 noisefest that is modern life” post. Followup 1 is here.

The why of it all is simple: the choice had to be made.

I can interact, manage life’s material necessities, or ideate and create. Not all three. And the world is not forgiving of missing work shifts or failure to pay bills, so it’s the interaction I must trim back.

Each of those activities uses distinct, competing parts of my brain.  Think of them as differing fighting styles or building skills. Each one requires a different set of weapons/tools and protective equipment.

I can clank through my day using two full tool sets at once, but all three? Not happening. (With construction in my basement right now, the analogy could be that plumbers and carpenters can work at once, or HVAC and plumbers, or HVAC and the carpenters, but all three? No one would have room to move!)

Also, switching from one mentality to another is a process not unlike taking off one set of weapons and armor and donning a new set. It takes time and energy to put away all the discarded equipment  properly and get all the new buckles done up right. It’s more efficient to pick which set (s) to use and stick with them for longer timeframes.

Interactive Communications is the skillset that takes the most time and energy to use and maintain.

My non-writing professions all demand extensive, regular communication. I got into them because I’m drawn to learning difficult things over easy ones. Plus it’s much easier to handle interaction in a structured system when I have a clearly defined role. Counselor. Teacher. Retailer. Trainer. Public Service Staffer.

So I’m good at communicating and interacting with people in a variety of environments. Humility not being one of my virtues, I would even say I am VERY good it.

I take pride in being able to readily talk with acquaintances and strangers, to share, inform and persuade–but I do NOT enjoy it.

No, seriously.  The number of people in the WORLD with whom I can interact comfortably–no filter, no forethought before every word, no constant conscious processing of pitfalls and consequences–is a small number.

Writing is work too. HARD work. But it’s work that lets me create, so it’s worth the effort. Hanging out with friends is worth the effort because friends ( yes, that IS a reason.)  But those things are both hard and also two different KINDS of effort.

I can’t do the creative writing if I ALSO have to be ready and able to write or to talk my way through interactions AND have to be able to remember things like eating, dressing, paying bills, and getting to important appointments.

So. Less Interacting. MOAR WRITING. That’s the plan.

Everybody wins.

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Image by gadost0 from Pixabay