14 March 2017No Need to Knead Easy Artisan Bread

Image enjoying a fresh piece of European bread hand-crafted by you in literally minutes. It's crusty on the outside, tender on the inside and still fits into your diet plan and hectic schedule. No, this is not a dream. As the daughter of a home economics major, I was introduced to the whole day process of bread baking at a young age. Naturally, when I was given a sourdough starter in a plastic bag by a busy graduate student who bakes 10 loaves a week, I was enticed. I was really interested when she claimed the recipe was no fuss, no knead bread and involved very little clean up. It was so easy and my first results were of top European quality (even by my German husband's standards) that I needed to assure myself that it was not beginner's luck. Consequently, I, too, baked 10 loaves during a crazy week of work, sandwiching my time between carpool mom and taking care of aging parents. Thus, now, I am convinced.

If you are new to this and still skeptical, watch this short No Knead Bread Video from the New York Times. It will reassure you that even a 6-year old can make homemade artisan bread in minutes.

The basic sourdough recipe contains 4 ingredients and makes 2 free form round loaves of bead. I usually eat one loaf and freeze or give away the second loaf.

Basic Sourdough Recipe

  • 1 cup of sourdough starter (180 grams) (received from a friend or neighbor or this starter recipe)
  • 3 cups of room temperature water (600 grams)
  • 7 cups of white flour (900 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon of salt (20 grams)

Starter:

Once you start talking about quick and simple artisan bread at work, soccer practice, church, or chatting over coffee, you will probably find someone who is willing to share a "starter". A sourdough starter is a small amount of dough, which you feed with water and flour and can keep alive for years. The "starter" I received was over 15 years old. Each time you take 1 cup of starter out to make two loaves of bread, feed your starter by adding 1 cup of room temperature water and 1 cup of white flour and mix. Store in a container with a lid at room temperature. If you aren't using it every day or every other day, it is best to leave it in the refrigerator. The starter can live for months in the fridge. However, the day before you plan to use it, refresh the starter with 2 T. of flour and 2T. of water. If you store it for a month, you may need to pour out a little starter and refresh it again with 2T. of flour and 2 T. of water.

Step 1: Stir

In a 1.5-gallon container with lid or in a large bowl, mix the 1 cup of starter with 3 cups of room temperature water and 1 tablespoon of salt. Then, add 3 cups of the flour. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Next, add the last 4 cups of flour. Stir until all flour is moist; this should take less than 2 minutes. Cover. For the bulk rise, let the dough sit on counter for as short as 6 hours and as long as 24 hours. If you can't bake it after 6 hours, put it in the refrigerator after a few hours. This recipe is very forgiving so let it rise for a time period that works for you. One weekend, I mixed the dough at 11:00 a.m., set it in the sun, and then baked it for supper at 5:00 pm. Another evening, I mixed up the dough at 6:00 pm, put it in the refrigerator after a few hours and baked it the next day at 6:00 pm. The flavor of the sourdough will be stronger the longer you let it rise.

Step 2: Preheat oven

When you are ready to bake (usually for me after 6 hours), preheat an ovenproof pot, with the lid on, (such as a turkey roaster or an enameled cast iron Dutch oven) in the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not grease the pot.

Then, dump the dough into two piles on a heavily floured or oatmeal surface. For easy clean up, I put the flour and oatmeal on a piece of wax paper. Fold the dough onto itself at each corner, flip it over, and make a free form round loaf. You may want to put a little oil or cold water on your hands for this process as the dough is sticky. If it was in the refrigerator, let it warm up to room temperature, letting it sit for at least 30 minutes on the counter. However, if it was on the counter, it is ready to bake once the oven and pot have been pre-heated. Drop dough into the preheated ovenproof pot. A large turkey roaster will hold two loaves of bread at once. If you want a more artisan look, slash the loaf with a serrated knife across the top. Bake with the lid on for 30 minutes. If you can, let the bread rest for 30 minutes after pulling it out of the oven. Cut and enjoy! (Note: For Colorado bakers or those living at higher elevations, I found that by preheating the oven to 450 degree F and baking for 45 minutes with the lid on assured that the center of the bread was not doughy and that it had reached 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, adjust the recipe to high altitude by using only 6 cups of dry ingredients, otherwise the bread is dry).

Experiment:

Once you have made the basic recipe a few times, be creative and use different dry ingredients to equal 7 cups. I always start with 3 cups of white flour.

Hearty Whole Grain Bread

  • 1 cup of starter
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 3 cups of white flour
  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of flax seeds
  • 1/2 of wheat germ
  • 1 cup of oatmeal

Even though you may feel that some of your creative loaves have "failed", everyone you share them with will be thrilled to eat homemade artisan bread.

Artisan Bread for Simple Yet Scrumptious Suppers

If you are trying to lose weight, use the European method of simple suppers. When I first met my German husband and was getting accustomed to the culture, I started to ask my husband whether we were having "bread and cheese" or "cheese and bread" for supper. It was always the same. However, as Jane Brody New York Times health columnist in the 1960's, used to promote, "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and supper like a pauper." Europeans truly take this to heart as most evening meals consist of simple bread with cold cuts and fresh cut up vegetables.

Can baking homemade bread really fit into your busy lifestyle and diet plan? Yes, by using this artisan bread recipe which contains no yeast, no kneading, and no bread machine, you too can enjoy delicious European bread which is crusty on the outside and tender on the inside. No, this is not a dream.

Nutrition Information:
Basic Sourdough Bread Recipe:
1 slice (12 slices per loaf) = 139 calories, 0 g total fat, 29 g total carbs (1 g fiber), 4 g protein
Heart Whole Grain Bread Recipe: 1 slice (12 slices per loaf) = 141 calories, 2 g total fat, 26 g total carbs (4 g fiber), 5 g protein Note: You can copy the customized recipe from dietitian or dietician if you wish to use it without entering it yourself.

Martha Henze, MS, RD, Traveling Taste Buds, LLC.
Even though lately Martha has been baking about 10 loaves of artisan bread a week, her friends and family have yet to reject a loaf. Please share with me your favorite dry ingredients.

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