There's something about the smell of bread baking. That warm yeasty smell that envelopes you as you walk through the door. It brings me back to being a kid again. Coming home from school to that smell. Cutting chunks of steaming bread and smearing it with copious amounts of butter and honey. Procrastinating feeding the horses, loathe to leave the warm kitchen filled with that fresh bread smell. Looking for an excuse to stay in a little longer.
The tables have turned, and it's now me baking the bread, dancing in front of the oven, waiting for the timer to ring so I can dash outside for some fresh air. Or I go for a run as the bread bakes. I've even found the spot on the road where I have to turn around and sprint home, just to breeze in the door as the timer rings. And then I get to smell that wonderful smell. And I remember all over again why I make bread. That smell. Oh. And toast. Toast and tea. It's what happens when bread and water have fun.
I've tried all kinds of recipes. I've had jars bubbling on my counter for weeks. I've cried. Just ask Jared. He's been a trooper, gnawing his way through sourdough that weighed 100 pounds, trimming off charred crusts and oohing over the doughy inside. 'I've never liked crust anyways,' he said, picking chunks of dough out of his teeth. It's moments like that where I feel a whole lotta love. He's a nice guy.
But back to bread. This four ingredient recipe is my go to. It's easy, requires minimal effort, has the perfect crusty/soft ratio, and when placed strategically on a wooden board, makes you look almost Parisian as you emerge from the depths of your kitchen.
4 Ingredient Artisan Boules:
-3 cups water, lukewarm
-1.5 tbsp traditional yeast
-1.5 tbsp sea salt
-6.5 cups all purpose flour (if using whole wheat flour, ensure you maintain at least 60% all purpose flour. Using 100% all purpose flour has given me the best results)
Add water to large glass bowl, sprinkle yeast and salt over top and let sit for 5-10 minutes, or until bubbly. Add flour. Using hands, incorporate well. The dough will be sticky, but don't yield to that temptation to add more flour. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and poke a few holes to allow for gases to escape. Place in a warm place and let rise for at least two hours.
Add flour to your hands and divide dough into two pieces. Adding more flour as necessary, shape into two boules, or ball shape. No kneading is necessary, but you can pull pieces from the outer edge to the middle, rotating your dough to pull each side to the middle. This technique is called stitching. The natural tendency is for dough to stick to itself, creating more tension, and therefore a smooth, elastic top. Once you're happy with your boule, dust top with flour and let it sit for 30 minutes to do it's thing.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 Fahrenheit. Place Dutch oven with lid in oven to get it toasty. This step is vital for that coveted crusty loaf with a tender inside. If you don't have a Dutch oven, use a pizza stone and place a pan full of water on rack below to create a steamy environment. You know what I mean.
When Dutch oven is hot, sprinkle bottom with a pinch of cornmeal or semolina, give the top of one boule three slashes across the top,place in Dutch oven, and cover with lid. Bake for 25 minutes, remove lid, and bake an additional 5 minutes. Bread is done when inserted thermometer reads 190 Fahrenheit. (I'm forever grateful to my MO Mom for teaching me that trick). Repeat with following boule.
Cool completely before slicing. Serve with butter and jam (copious amounts), or whip up some softened butter with fresh herbs.