Unassuming Artisian Bread

I made Beef (well, elk)-Barley soup yesterday. It wasn’t blog-worthy. You could do a search for “Beef-Barley soup” and come up with dozens of better recipes. I mean, Beef-Barley soup is pretty basic and hard to mess up, but it’s also hard to come up with a truly outstanding recipe. I’ll probably try to follow this recipe the next time I get the Beef-Barley hankering. I’ll let you know if I come up with something extraordinary.

In the meantime, I made this bread to go with the soup, and it WAS blog-worthy.

I don’t know what to call this bread. Deb at Smitten Kitchen calls it “Bread Without a Timetable.” That’s a mouthful. Let’s maybe call it “Unassuming Artisian Bread”?

Give it a try; it’s low-key enough that I was able to make it while doing about 10 other things, and everybody who tried it thought it quite good. I might try adapting the recipe a bit in the future – maybe add some wheat bran, millet, sunflower seeds and/or flax seeds to make it a little “meatier.” I like a hearty bread with some fun texture added.

Ingredients
(this is adapted quite a bit from the original recipe, so be sure to check it out, along with her instructions for shaping a baguette)

1/2 cup white flour (I might have used more, but that’s all I had)
3 1/4 cups wheat flour (I used Wheat MT’s Prairie Gold, because that’s what I had)
1 heaping teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon yeast (regular or rapid rise)
1 1/2 cups warm liquid (She says to use a combo of water and milk; I used 1 T orange juice, 1 T olive oil, 1/4 c. milk and the rest warm water)

Directions

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl or your mixing bowl. Add the liquid and combine; the dough should be sticky but kneadable (stickier than regular bread dough). I suspect this is a pretty forgiving recipe, so don’t worry too much about the texture of the dough, just make sure it leans toward sticky. Knead for a few minutes and then cover the bowl with a damp towel or saran wrap and set aside.

She is really, really vague about how long you let the dough rest; vague enough that I didn’t really know what to do except that from my other knowledge of no-knead breads, I figured I should let it rise for quite a while. So I let it rise for about 4-5 hours, then I punched it down and let it rise another 30 minutes, and then I shaped the loaf and let it rise another 30 minutes. I’d say you could probably go as little as an hour or two for the first rise, but you could also let it set all night and it would probably be okay. I think the point of this recipe is that it sort of takes care of itself and you can make it fit around your schedule.

When you are ready to bake your bread, preheat your oven to 450, OR you can put your bread in the oven while it preheads.  Shape your loaf (I did a baguette, although a regular round loaf would probably be lovely), use a serrated knife to cut some slashes in it, brush a little water on top (this helps the crust be nice and crusty), and pop it in the oven.

Bake at 450 for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 425 and start checking your bread for doneness using the “sounds hollow when I tap the bottom” method or whatever other way you think might work. My crust got super crusty and was almost burnt after about 40 minutes, so I took it out, but the inside probably could have baked a little bit more (she gives a range of 5-20 minutes after the initial half-hour at 450).

Nobody seemed to mind slightly-underbaked bread, though; I barely had enough left to have toast for breakfast. I will be making this again soon.