The Perfect Time to Make Bread Is Now

Baking a loaf of bread from scratch seems like the quintessential winter cooking project. The comfort of a warm kitchen and the smell of freshly baked bread are so soothing on a cold day that even thinking about them in summer is strange. But trust me: if you are new to bread making and are a little intimidated by the process, you should start now, at the end of summer, while your house is still warm enough for the dough to rise.

When baking bread, you have to deal with many moving parts, and only a few of them you can actually control. The ones you can’t, namely the temperature and humidity in your kitchen, are so important to the growing process that they are almost ingredients on their own. Cultivate your test instincts at the end of summer, when these two conditions are perfect for baking, will set you up for early success, not crushing defeat. And after a month of practice in Easy Mode, you’ll be better prepared to troubleshoot recipes that haven’t yet arrived in the Cold Dark Times.

This goes for any bread you can make. It is known that slowly rising fortified doughs like challah and buns come to life in a slightly warm kitchen, rather than sitting for hours like butter pebbles in a proofing bowl, as it happens in the middle of winter. If you’re curious about naturally leavened bread, these three-day folding, forming and baking processes will never be easier than they are now. But I firmly believe that making bread is as difficult as you want it to be, and for most people, that means it should be much easier than sourdough, rolls, or even bread without kneading overnight .

Here is my favorite bread recipe, which is an adaptation of a truly excellent peasant bread recipe from Mum Alexandra Stafford . I will never be silent about it. This is not just bread without kneading – it is bread that cannot be kneaded on the same day . In a kitchen with a temperature of approximately 72ºF, the dough rises in less than two hours; Once this is done, transfer it to a greased skillet and let it rise again while the oven preheats. It bakes for 30-40 minutes, after which you’ll have a soft, bouncy bread with a buttery crust – perfect for sandwiches, croutons, stews, or the final tomato mayonnaise toast of the season.

While Stafford’s recipe is mostly flawless as written, over time I’ve adjusted my version to use less water, a little more salt, and a baking dish rather than pyrex bowls. Here’s what you need to do this:

  • Large mixing bowl
  • 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups (275 grams) warm water (90-100 º F)
  • 1 standard bread pan (8 1/2 “x 4 1/2” or 9 “x 5”)
  • Butter, salted or unsalted, for lubrication

In a large bowl, beat flour, yeast, salt and sugar until smooth. Stir in the water with a flexible spatula, scrubbing the sides and bottom of the bowl until you see dry flour. Cover with plastic or a damp, clean towel and let sit for 1 1/2-2 hours. The dough should be bubbly, wobbly, and more than double its original size.

Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425ºF. Grease a bread pan. Using the same non-stick spatula, free the dough from the sides of the bowl by pulling up and down to form a very rough ball. (Seriously, don’t worry about the mold — it’s never perfect.) Place the dough on the prepared mold and let it rise until it protrudes over the edge, another 30-45 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, turning baking sheet halfway to brown evenly, then reduce heat to 350ºF and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Place immediately on a wire shelf to cool and allow to cool before slicing. You have just baked bread. Look, you’re leaving!

I recommend doing it as it is, at least once or twice to get the bread legs, and then tinkering with it however you want. Sometimes I add a little vinegar or a few tablespoons of yogurt to the water for some flavor; for pizza dough or focaccia, I’ll add 1/4 cup olive oil and extra salt. You may decide that one bread recipe is all you need, but it can also be your gateway to a bread-making obsession. Either way, by the time the braising and braising season begins, you’ll have at least one recipe for homemade cold bread.


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