Fall starts tomorrow, and I’m ready for it. Sure, it means summer is over, grilling season is done, and (in my part of the country) farmer’s markets are closed. But I really hate humidity and it’s been bad this year. And so, autumn could not come quicker. Recently in western Pennsylvania, the air turned cooler, down to the high 40’s on a few nights. I even dug out my flannels and made cocoa one night – true signs that the new season was right around the corner. Right around this time, I came across a blog via Pinterest that boasted “artisan bread for 40 cents per loaf” and showed a photo of a delicious-looking round of bread. I love bread, especially in the fall and winter. There is nothing like a bowl of hot soup or stew with a warm loaf of crusty bread for dipping. Unfortunately, for this mom on a budget, I don’t always have fresh bread in my house because it’s gotten so darn expensive. One is hard pressed to find a humble baguette at the grocery store for less than $3, and don’t even get me started on the $7 walnut-raisin loaves.
So, anyway, back to Pinterest…this particular blog gave a very simple looking recipe consisting of water, salt, yeast and flour. According to the author, one mixes these ingredients together, places the dough in the refrigerator overnight and the next day bread is ready to be baked. Translation: no kneading, no waiting around for the dough to rise multiple times, just mix and forget it. It promised a crusty exterior with a soft center. It sounded too good to be true, but I had to give it a try.
Following the instructions, I mixed 3 cups of warm water with 2 packets of quick-rising yeast and a tablespoon and a half of salt in a large plastic container. Next, I dumped 6 and a half cups of all-purpose flour in the liquid and stirred with a wooden spoon until everything was combined. That was it. It went into the refrigerator overnight in the same container I’d mixed it in. The entire process took less than 5 minutes. The next morning I took the container from the fridge and saw exactly what the recipe promised: the dough had risen beautifully! With kitchen shears I cut about a third of the dough off and shaped it into a loaf. After letting it rest for 30 minutes on some parchment paper, I scored the top with a serrated knife and placed the loaf (along with the parchment) in a preheated 450 degree oven on top of an upside down cookie sheet . There was also a small baking dish on the bottom rack of the oven with 1 cup of water in it, which creates the steam necessary for a crusty exterior. The loaf baked for exactly 35 minutes and what came out of the oven was a glorious, browned, crackly loaf of bread that looked exactly like what I might buy from the bakery. After letting it cool, I cut my first slice: the crust was very crusty and gave way to a soft center. I slathered it with butter and ate it up, followed by a second slice. It was really good! The recipe makes an enormous amount of dough which will last in the fridge for 2 weeks. It’s fantastic, because you just cut what you need for your meal and let the rest sit. From my first batch, I made a large loaf of bread, which made wonderful BLT’s and French toast, crusty dinner rolls and a delicious baguette. I was also able to use the last of my garden heirloom tomatoes in bruschetta. I enjoyed this with a glass of rosé, similar to Ponte’s Fiorella (which will be available soon, yay!!). Classic tomato and garlic bruschetta is also great with Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio.
I can’t wait to play around with different flours (wheat flour, rye flour) and flavorings (maybe roasted garlic or rosemary or Kalamata olive). For the cost to make this bread at home, there will no doubt be lots of playing in the kitchen this season. And lots of loaves to eat.
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Click here for the recipe I used for homemade bread
— What is your favorite thing about Fall?