Flour, Yeast, Salt, Water & Time. . . Breadasana!

Simply Rustic Bread

There are few things that I love more than yoga, but cooking is one of my other true passions!  Baking homemade bread is one of my favorite meditations.  The smell and taste are intoxicating!  However, pick up a book on bread baking and one can get a bit overwhelmed by the shear enormity of flour and time required.  So I was truly excited years ago, when I discovered Jim Lahey’s (founder of Sullivan Street Bakery) method of producing quick, no fuss, minimally laborious rustic bread.  This method has made bread making much less intimidating and has since been adapted by Mark Bittman to be even faster when needed.

Just this past week, I had the privilege of taking my daughter to hear Mark Bittman speak at Indiana University.  He was asked, what one thing could a person do to make an impact on our food system and culture?  His answer was simple.  Cook.  His answer was brilliantly simplistic and possibly a disappointment to those who wanted a call to action that would involve organizing, legislating or protesting.

Cooking your own food is not unlike the call to action in yoga.  Both require that we look inward and take personal responsibility.  We tend to want a magic pill, someone to tell us how we can be happier, feel better and be stronger.   If you want to make an impact on the current food system, stop buying things that aren’t real food for the sake of convenience and time.  Start buying or growing the best food you can afford and prepare it yourself.

 

Below are the two recipes. . .


Lahey (12 – 18 hr version)


3 cups flour*

1 1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp instant or active dry yeast 

1 1/3 cups cool water 

cornmeal, wheat bran or additional flour for dusting


Bittman (quicker version – let rise minimum of 4 hrs)


 3 cups flour

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 packet active dry yeast or 2 1/4 tsp loose yeast

1 1/2 cups cool water

cornmeal, wheat bran or additional flour for dusting


Mix together the flour, yeast and salt, then stir in the water.

Bread Prep

Dough will be shaggy and pulling away from sides of bowl.  Next, drizzle a small amount of oil around the sides of the bowl and flip the dough ball several times to coat the outside of the shaggy dough ball.  Cover with plate, wrap or moist towel and set in warm area to rise (either the Lahey version – 12 – 18 hrs, over night works great or the Bittman version, minimum of 4 hrs)

The dough will be wet, flour a cutting board or other work surface, turn out dough – it is quite normal for it to be stringy, this is the gluten forming.  Try not to add too much flour, just enough to keep your hands from sticking as you fold the outside edges into the center and tuck the dough in to make it into a round, dome shape.  Flour the top and sides and cover with a light weight cotton or linen towel.  (a large bowl or the saran wrap you used to cover while rising works too – remember, this is no fuss!)

Bread Dough

Let sit again for an hour (and up to two, until it has doubled in size. If you live in a warm, humid climate, it will be on the shorter side.  If left too long, it gets a bit out of control!)

Preheat a glass casserole or iron pot with lid (note: if using Le Crueset, the interior can discolor at high heat) in the oven with lid on at 475 degrees for about 30 minutes – you are making an oven within your own oven.  (Don’t stress about this either, my friend uses a heavy duty glass bowl meant to withstand heat and a lid from another pan that fits tightly).

Once the oven and pan are preheated, you can begin to transfer your dough.  You can use a dough scraper to aid in the transfer to the hot pot or the towel you covered it with.  Place the dough gently into the hot pan – being careful of the hot sides – and re-cover.  Bake on 475 for 30 minutes.  Remove the lid and continue to bake another 15 – 30 minutes depending upon how dark you like your crust.  The longer you bake, the crispier and crunchier the crust.  Be careful not to burn.

Bread Baked In Glass

Once baked, remove from pan with a towel or mitts, place on a rack to cool.  You may notice a cracking sound called “singing” as the cool air hits the bread and some expansion occurs.  This is a fabulous sign!  Allow the bread to cool before slicing.

*NOW FOR THE FUN PART. . . EXPERIMENTING!

I have found either method to be rather fool proof!  Be adventurous – you can use bread flour or plain white (which I found worked well in higher altitudes).  I often use a blend of flours; organic white, wheat, barely, oat, rye, cornmeal etc.  Remember with the heavier flours, a 2:1 or smaller white flour to darker flour ratio is helpful to keep the “crumb” (texture of the bread) from getting too dense and heavy.

I often include some sort of natural sweetener when using the darker flours.  A few tablespoons of molasses or honey mixed into warmish water to dissolve will add dimension and flavor.  It also feeds the yeast, which lightens the loaf a bit.

Dried fruit such as cherries, dates or raisins go well.  If you add dried fruit during the first rising, remember they will reconstitute a bit.  If you prefer, you can add the fruit when you turn the dough out the first time.

I have also used half water/half buttermilk, roasted garlic, herbs, cheese, cinnamon, nuts and various seeds.

TRY THESE COMBOS:

Cinnamon raisin, with Whole Wheat flour

Dried Cherries & Walnuts

Roasted Garlic and Cheddar, with Buttermilk

Cheddar and Dill. with Cornmeal

Olive and Feta

Rye with Molasses, Cornmeal, Caraway Seeds

Of the hundreds of breads I have tried only a few did not turn out beautiful!  So go forth and create some of your own breadasana!

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