Saturday, April 17, 2010


Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
John 6:35

I don't know why bread has such a monumental effect on me.

There is nothing exciting about it's appearance and yet as far as I am concerned, there is literally nothing better than a loaf of crusty bread, good quality olive oil and a bottle of red wine. It feeds my soul. Why is that?

Maybe it's just an association that I have grown over the years to have with it. Perhaps, based on something like the verse above. It plays such a huge role in the life of the Christian metaphorically. And it's the core of Jesus's message to the Gentiles.

Or did you ever read the Box Car Children? As a child having read the story, I often thought of those four poor, orphaned children, where a loaf of bread was such a tremendous gift to them. Every banquet, dinner party or reception that served crusty rolls, had me savoring every bite of that simple treat thinking back on those kids and how tasty it must have been to their hungry stomachs.

When JP and I got married, for some reason, I thought my ultimate goal in domestic success was to be able to one day make leavened bread in it's finest form, crusty on the outside, warm and soft on the inside. Just like the French.

So after about 4 years of marriage and numerous failed attempts at bread making (I've put all this pressure on myself throughout life!), I got acquainted with a bread maker, which was a Godsend. And since then I've made all sorts of really tasty breads with just the push of a button. The other week, our poor bread maker decided it had had enough and needed a sabbatical. Horror! What were we going to do?!? So as we wait for our part to come in the mail, I decided to try my hand once again at the old bread making by hand. And, dang it, it was going to be crusty, just like the bakeries in town.

I searched for hand made crusty bread, chose the first recipe I found (which was from the The New York Times; I figured it was some professional trying to adapt the process to those of us cursed with anything containing yeast) and ALAS! I can do it! I'm here to tell you that I have arrived (and I'm barely over 30!). So here's the recipe. Try it for yourself. You will never turn back, I promise.

And for those of you living close to our new mommies, please take them some. Lord knows they won't have time any time soon to get to this frivolous cooking!

Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)

Time: About 45 minutes plus about 3 hours’ resting and rising

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough


1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, (with a towel) but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).

2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel (parchement or wax paper works for this as well) sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone (all I had was a stoneware pie plate which works but you can only bake one at a time) on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup (I'm gonna try 2 cups water to see if it will get any crispier) hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Yield: 4 loaves.

Variation: If not using stone, stretch rounded dough into oval and place in a greased, nonstick loaf pan. Heat oven to 450 degrees for 5 minutes. Place pan on middle rack.

I know 6 cups of flour seems like a lot, but go ahead and make the whole batch. That way you have the dough all ready to go for the next meal and just have to pull off a piece! We hammered two loaves over dinner last night but then maybe we are gluttons. If you are using refrigerated dough, then let rest 1 hour and 40 mins before sprinkling with flour and slicing the top. Now go ahead, humor me and scroll back to the top. That really is MY bread. Isn't it beautiful?!? Now let's see if I can actually do this again...


  1. OK, so the link to the original recipe doesn't exactly work. If you want to see it there, then just search for it on Google I guess. Weird.

  2. i'm excited to give it a try! and don't forget to tag your post under "recipes"

  3. sounds yummy anna! brent is drooling as he is reading over my shoulder!

  4. Ha ha. Put that man to work. Someone up there should be able to make this happen for you Merritt! You certainly deserve it! I'm making loaf 4 tonight and they hav all turned out equally delicious!

  5. Love the recipe. I have wonderful memories baking bread, just have not done so in sometime. Will try your recipe. can't wait to share with friends.