If you’ve never baked bread, here’s the absolute easiest way to get started

To paraphrase the great Oprah Winfrey: “I love bread.”

OK, that’s her Weight Watchers quote verbatim, so I’m not paraphrasing. I, too, love bread, especially the homemade kind.

No-knead breads are a great introduction to baking bread. You mix together the dry ingredients, add the wet and then stir with a spatula. Alexandra Stafford’s method calls for baking the dough in a buttered Pyrex bowl, which is a great use for this common cooking vessel. Other oven-proof bowls are fine, but the 1 1/2 quart bowls are the right size for two loaves. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Over the years, I’ve baked bread the laborious way and the easy (but overnight) no-knead way and now I’ve found a new no-knead technique that doesn’t require fermenting the dough for 12 hours but yields a wonderful loaf nonetheless.

MORE: Headed out on your own? Here’s a no-knead bread for beginner bakers 

This new technique comes from Alexandra Stafford’s new book, “Bread Toast Crumbs: Recipes for No-Knead Loaves & Meals to Savor Every Slice” (Clarkson Potter, $30), which I got a few months ago and have been baking with ever since. I’ve made her regular loaf, a quinoa flax loaf, one with olives and another with cinnamon and raisins, and each I would make again, if I haven’t already.

From Stafford’s base recipe, you can make all kinds of additional loaves, like this one with quinoa, flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

In today’s food section, you can find three of those recipes, but I wanted to share the base recipe here and encourage you to try it, even if you’ve never baked bread before.

Baking bread isn’t one of those skills you have to have to feed yourself, but I have found that baking bread gives me the confidence to try other kitchen tasks I might have thought were out of my leave. Plus, it’s cheap to experiment with, and unlike my previous no-knead favorite, this recipe doesn’t take much time to complete.

The Peasant Bread Master Recipe

Here it is: The no-knead bread recipe my mother has been making for 40 years, the one she taught me to make 20 years ago, the recipe I published on my blog in 2012, the recipe that inspired the creation of every recipe that follows in this book. This formula is simple — 4 cups flour, 2 cups water, 2 teaspoons each salt and sugar, and 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast — and can be adapted in countless ways. Make it once as described below, then tailor it to your liking.

— Alexandra Stafford

4 cups (512 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
Softened unsalted butter, for greasing

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast. Add the water. Using a rubber spatula, mix until the water is absorbed and the ingredients form a sticky dough ball.

Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and heat it to 425 degrees. Grease two 1-quart oven-safe bowls with the softened butter — be generous. Using two forks, deflate the dough by releasing it from the sides of the bowl and pulling it toward the center. Rotate the bowl quarter-turns as you deflate, turning the mass into a rough ball.

Using your two forks and, working from the center out, separate the dough into two equal pieces. Use the forks to lift each half of the dough into a prepared bowl. If the dough is too wet to transfer with forks, lightly grease your hands with butter or oil, then transfer each half to a bowl. Do not cover the bowls. Let the dough rise on the countertop near the oven (or another warm, draft-free spot) for 10 to 20 minutes, until the top of the dough just crowns the rims of the bowls.

Transfer the bowls to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 17 to 20 minutes more, until evenly golden all around. Remove the bowls from the oven and turn the loaves out onto cooling racks. If the loaves look pale, return them to their bowls and bake for 5 minutes longer. Let the loaves cool for 15 minutes before cutting. Makes two 14-ounce loaves.

— From “Bread Toast Crumbs: Recipes for No-Knead Loaves & Meals to Savor Every Slice” by Alexandra Stafford (Clarkson Potter, $30)

 

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