My family eats lots of bread. Lots. PB&J, toast, egg in a basket, BLT, cinnamon toast, submarine sandwiches, french toast, rolls, whatever. We are definitely not a gluten free family.
As a teen, my friends and I used to make fun of my mother for stuffing her freezer with almost entirely bread products. It was hysterical. Most families had popsicles, ice cream, frozen desserts, veggies and TV dinners and my Mom had bread. Loaf after loaf after loaf. Rye bread was her favorite.
We all say we aren’t going to become our parents, be we all do and I am no exception. Now, I freeze bread. Lots of it. If I didn’t, I would be going to the store for bread every few days and grocery shopping is not my favorite pastime.
With my clean and simple living journey, I hoped to be able to find a way to make healthy and easy homemade bread instead of buying bread and freezing it constantly. But, bread is not exactly a simple process so I knew this way going to be a challenge.
Mixing the ingredients, letting the bread rise several times and then baking the bread takes time and can get complicated. (just see my sourdough cheat recipe!) I need something “on hand” to be able to make a loaf of bread every afternoon if needed.
After reading some library books and making some trial loafs, I think I finally found what I need: a premade homemade dough that can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and only requires 1 more rising (around 45 min-1 hour) and takes only 30 minutes to bake. This, I can work with.
Warm water helps the dough rise faster before you put it in the fridge for storage, so make sure it’s around 100°F – or a little warmer than body temp.
Add the yeast & salt to the warm water in a sealable container – nothing airtight, though. A simple tupperware container works perfectly. They even make bread dough lidded buckets if ya want one. Mix in the flour, any way that you want, but do NOT knead it. I just used a wooden spoon at first and then my fingers to really get the dough completely incorporated. This only takes a few minutes and the dough should be moist.
Now, let the dough rise. Cover the container with your lid (make sure it’s NOT airtight or something bad could happen) and let it sit at room temp for around 2-5 hours depending on water temp and room temp. Letting it go longer will not harm your results. Now throw it in the fridge until you are ready to bake a loaf.
When you are ready to bake, give yourself around 2 hours before mealtime. Take the dough container out of the fridge and with a pair of kitchen shears or a knife, cut off a piece of dough that is around a grapefruit size or 1 pound.
Dust the dough and your hands with a little flour. Take the dough and do what is called a “gluten cloak” (check out the quick video). This is when you stretch the top of the dough down the sides and under the loaf so that the top of the loaf looks tight – it takes seconds.
Let the loaf rest on a cornmeal or flour covered “pizza peel” or small wooden cutting board (which is what I use) for about 40 min or more. It does not need to be covered. Just keep it out of the way of traffic. It may rise a little more or not.
Preheat oven to 450° F with a baking stone in the oven and another small tray to hold water on another shelf.
Dust the loaf one more time and slash a 1/4″ deep cut in whatever pattern you like with a serrated knife.
Slide the loaf of bread onto the preheated baking stone with a quick jerk and then quickly pour 1 cup of water into the other small tray and close the oven right away to trap the steam.
Set the timer for 30 minutes and make the rest of your meal while it bakes. Bam. Super crusty and crackly crust with a soft and dense center. Perfection.
The coolest part of this is that you can keep it in your fridge for a couple weeks and just cut off the dough and bake as you go. Then restock the dough and keep going. Or, you can even freeze 1 pound sections in airtight containers and just defrost overnight in the fridge. This master recipe can be used to make so many different variations of breads and even pizza crusts and desserts.
I am going to continue testing out more simple and easy loaves of bread for my family to enjoy for sandwiches, french toast and dinners. But, I am definitely on the right path towards a quick and easy fresh loaf of bread that can be baked a few times a week. Check out more ways to use the Boule master recipe in this awesome book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I am floored by all the options.
Next step: sew some linen bags for storing any bread!