How to Make the Easiest, Cheapest, and Most Delicious Bread You’ve Ever Tasted

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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30 Responses

  1. Avatar Burt Likko
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    This will become the foundation for turkey sandwiches on Friday at Casa Likko. Oh yes it will.Report

  2. Avatar Burt Likko
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    A technical question from the baker in my family: can we freeze the dough to cook later? Or does that kill the yeast in the proofed dough?Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko
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      I have no idea, but I will ask knittingnikik and get back. (Or if zic is reading this, she might know.)

      But I do know that if I wanted to make the dough today but bake on Thursday, for example, that at some point I could put it in the fridge and it would stop the rising process, which would then continue when we took it out at put at room temp. But I’m not sure how long I’d do that (I’ve only done that for a couple of days), and I have zero idea about the freezing.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Tod Kelly
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        Putting dough in the fridge doesn’t stop the rising process, it merely slows it down. Takes a one hour job and makes it into an 8 hour job.

        Letting the dough rise until it’s overproofed (as the OP recipe does) is poor form and not likely to get you the best loaf ever.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
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      Yeah, you can freeze the dough. but then you need to let it get back to room temperature afterwards… (which can take hours)Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Burt Likko
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      Yes, you can freeze the dough. But it will kill some of the yeast, too. Doughs made to be frozen generally have more yeast added because of this. Frozen doughs are generally shaped and allowed to rise in the pan they’ll bake in; doing the final rise as they defrost.

      It’ might be better to cook all the dough, and freeze the bread.

      I’d also mention the many, many uses of old bread. It can be made into French toast; stuffing, meatloaf, pulverized for bread crumbs, sliced and toasted until dry for ‘crackers’, tossed with oil & seasoning and toasted until dry for croutons. It’s good for onion soup, ribolita soup.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic
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        @burt-likko: http://breadbaking.about.com/od/beginnerbasics/ht/freezedough.htm

        Tod’s recipe is for a slack dough (that means a dough with a high water to flour ratio), and it’s using a yeast life cycle (instead of just active yeast,) so I’m not sure I’d bother to freeze this particular dough.

        The link above is pretty much what I’d do; this would be for a kneaded dough, shaped into a loaf after the 1st rise, baked immediately.) The pan thing; it’s big on holding shape.

        Personally, rather then freezing dough, I’d just freeze the bread.Report

  3. Avatar Scott R.
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    Tod, any idea on the importance of temperature during the 12 – 20 hour rise time? I’d love to set this up tonight for baking tomorrow morning, but we keep the house pretty cool (50s F) at night. Will I need to wait on the 20 hrs end of the spectrum?Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Scott R.
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      I might wait a bit past the 12, but I don’t know that you need to wait until 20. Maybe 14 or 15?Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Scott R.
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      You can speed up rising time by starting with a bit of extra yeast. A lot of bread recipes assume you’re in a hurry, so they scale the yeast to like a one hour rise time, which works fine but doesn’t result in as much flavour developing.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Scott R.
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      @scott-r Even

      For that slow rise, use less yeast; even 1/4 teaspoon; you’ll actually have the yeast go through a reproductive cycle; and there will be more by the time you’re ready to bake.

      Your bread will also have better flavor.

      The problem will be deciding when it’s ready to bake; this will be at the yeasts determination, and you’ll just have to suss it out from the risen condition of the dough.Report

  4. Avatar Damon
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    Yum. Can you do sourdough like this? I love sourdough.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Damon
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      @damon I don’t know, but I doubt it. I’ve never cooked with sourdough, but my dad did a lot of stuff with it when I was growing up. I remember that there was something called a “start” that you had to make an entire presidential administration prior to actually cooking with it. i also remember it taking forever when he made anything.

      Mind you, a lot of that might be my dad and/or faulty memories, so I don’t know that I’d take my word on it.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Tod Kelly
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        That’s not the only way to make sourdough.
        Still, this recipe is asking for an abnormally small amount of yeast (likely because you’re rising it for 20 hours at room temperature, which means you want your yeast to make many many many babies, and not kill itself).Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Damon
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      You certainly would have a difficult time making a good poolish with only a quarter tsp yeast. I’d suggest giving it more time to grow (maybe 4 hours) before stirring in the rest of the flour. [This is french-style sourdough, not san franciscan].Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kimmi
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        I thought the same thing.

        Peter Reinhart’s recipe for pain ancienne uses twice the flour and 1 3/4 tsp of instant yeast. (I do not like the flavor of instant yeast, aka bread-machine yeast, as much as active dry, btw,). But there’s a big difference between simply letting sit overnight and retarding in the refrigerator overnight, too; Reinhart’s recipe would have collapsed already with that much yeast at room temperature. Tod’s is working because he’s giving his yeast ample room to reproduce (at least one, if not two cycles); he’s probably got some good acetobacterium at work, turning the alcohol into vinegar, as well.

        My grandmother used to make a similar bread, but with a piece of yesterday’s dough, about the size of a walnut, as the fermenting agent. She stored it in a jar of flour, kept just for that purpose.Report

  5. Avatar North
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    You had me at bread.Report

  6. Avatar zic
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    Okay, now that I’ve finally read through Tod’s recipe; first off, excellent job!

    I have two suggestions for the brave and foolish to try.

    1. replace some of that 3 cups of flour with whole-grain flour. Me, for this recipe, I’d replace a whole cup with spelt; but that’s going to be a heavier bread. Start with 1/2 cup; you’ll still have a light, airy loaf. With this long, slow rise, the yeast will have plenty of time to pre-digest the whole grain flour for you, unlocking all the nutrition bound up in it; instead of having it just serve the role of ‘fiber’ in your diet.

    2. Try folding. Bread still needs gluten to maintain it’s structure; and while it forms naturally with the long rise, there’s nothing here to give it structure. That’s what kneading is supposed to do; but to be honest, most people who think they know how to knead have no clue. But folding? It’s easy, let’s you get into your dough while it’s developing, and builds more gluten structure than the best of kneads. And it’s really simple. Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured board (brush the loose off, you don’t want it stuck in the dough, before you pour the dough out.) Now stretch the dough a bit in opposite directions, east and west, and fold those toward the middle. Repeat, north and south. Put the dough back in it’s rising bowl, folded top down, and ignore it some more. Two folds, a couple hours apart, will greatly enhance the bread’s structure.

    For this type of recipe, I’d probably skip the parchment paper, and instead, rise in a banneton (a basket) or bowl, and pour that directly into the hot pan. I’d also slit the top to prevent ripping; a shears, cutting an X, will give some room for the bread to bloom open as the yeast and steam in the dough give it that final lift to expand, without ripping the forming crust.

    This dough would be fine without the oil; and if you’re oven runs hot, it will burn the crust. (If you don’t know how your oven runs, I recommend finding out — thermometers are a cooks best friend.)

    @damon asked about sourdough; a sourdough is a culture of yeast and bacteria, kept alive from baking to baking. This recipe won’t go there, but it can approximate, particularly because of the long, slow rise time. One easy way to boost that sour flavor is with a powedered buttermilk (about 1/4 cup) or actually using buttermilk instead of water. I’ve also used whey. You can also take some plain yogurt (active culture, not Greek) and drain it in a cheesecloth overnight; you’ll have whey in the bottom, and cream cheese in the top. Use whatever you’ve got there with enough water to make the 1 1/2 cup. Another way to get that sour flavor is to sour the dough with a starter; 1 cup of flour, the 1/4 teaspoon yeast, and a cup of water. Let is sit overnight at room temperature. Next day, add the rest of the water and flour, and proceed; I’d let the long multi-hour rise take place in the refrigerator overnight (and I’d still fold).Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to zic
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      I admit it: it’s quite likely that I do not know how to knead. I shall try the folding technique described here as I am anxious that my bread have a nice texture.

      The round bread that is depicted in the OP seems to have suffered a rupture during baking; that’s what cutting a slit in the dough before baking is supposed to prevent, no? Could one do several parallel slits, baugette-style? I think that could not only be functional, but also look nice with toasty golden tips to the edges.

      And I just went out over my lunch break today and bought a fresh roll of parchment, specifically to make this bread!Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Burt Likko
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        Yes, that’s exactly what the slits are designed to do. Believe it or not, this is the one bread-baking skill I feel far from having mastered, too. Everything else, I feel I’ve got good understanding of, good feel of, can do. But short of having a bakery where I’d get to slit a 100 loaves in quick order, I feel a lack here.

        You can slit the dough however you want; but since it’s going to be in a very, very hot, pre-heated Dutch oven, I’d recommend using sharp kitchen shears and roughing it.

        The folding is the most awesome bread-baking secret ever.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
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        Burt, and everyone else:
        You can use a pastry sheet (that’s a big plastic thing that will take up your whole counter) or you can use a silpat (also good for cookies, or tons of other “I’m putting this in the oven” tricks). Both of which are reusable.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to zic
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      @zic @tod-kelly

      Excellent info. I just might have to try this. 🙂 Thanks!Report

    • Avatar knittingniki in reply to zic
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      @zic I will be trying both the folding and the whole-graining of this loaf in the coming days. I hear you about the parchment… and, it’s the best thing we’ve found to enable transfer of this wet wet dough out of the second-rise location and into the preheated dutch oven. Our other methods, including this adaptation of Jim Lahey’s original recipe

      http://edibleberkshires.com/recipes/sides/no-knead-no-fuss-incredible-artisanal-bread/

      which called for a second rise on floured dish towels (!), all left us with much dough sadly wasted on hands/counters/other non-loaf-of-bread places.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to knittingniki
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        A a basket, either a banneton or wicker, for the rise. Your dough’s got too much water in it for linen. I’d just rise in the basket (heavily floured), and than pour the dough into the dutch oven, and as I said elsewhere, I’d use sharp kitchen shears because of the hot pan. If you’re concerned about sticking, cut a circle of parchment the size of the bottom of your pan, and put it in just before you add the dough.

        I don’t use a dutch oven for breaking, though I’ve been meaning to try it; I’ve got a good pizza stone, so tend to do a final proofing on parchment paper on rimless cookie sheet, and I just slip the parchment onto the pizza stone. I’ll put a cast-iron pan on the bottom of the oven as it heats (a good, long heat, at least 30 min.) When I’m ready to put the bread it, I slit it deeply at a 45-degree angle (tomato knife is my weapon of choice, don’t hesitate or you’ll deflate your bread,) about an inch deep; ice in the frying pan, and parchment slid off the baking sheet and onto the pizza stone. This allows me to bake two or more loaves at the same time.

        Of all things to try, however, I’d recommend the powdered buttermilk. It’s pretty awesome for enhancing the flavor and keeping qualities.

        And for a dough not kneaded, I’d perhaps consider adding 1/2 teaspoon of lecithan, which will help maintain the structure; with lecithan, more than that is not better.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to knittingniki
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        says:

        Also, this:

        http://kensartisan.com/#/book

        awesome awesome awesome. Scroll down, there’s directions for folding. Awesome awesome awesome.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to knittingniki
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        Also, with such a slow rise, this is not necessary, but: particularly with whole grains, an autolyse soak is good. I typically replace 1/3 the white flour (by weight) with whole grain. Add 2/3 the water, 1/4 teasp. yeast, and let soak 4 or more hours to fully hydrate the whole grain bread. Finish as established, rest of the water, the salt (additional yeast if you’re doing a quicker rise.

        The other trick is kneading as one would for a ciabatta; in a deep bread bowl with wet hands.Report

  7. Avatar Michael Cain
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    Random observations. I followed the recipe as given, and the loaf looked very much like the picture. Things I’ll do differently the next time… Even though not marked as fast-rising, my yeast is clearly faster than Tod’s; 12 hours on the counter was too much. Either less time, or start in the refrigerator. I’ll probably fold it per zic. Crust is a little thick and crispy for my wife’s taste, so adjustments for that.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Michael Cain
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      @michael-cain I put a link to folding on Kim’s pizza crust post. I highly recommend the book it comes from, too. If I were to give anyone who was interested in learning about bread baking a book, it would be either Flour, Yeast, Water, Salt by Ken Forkish or The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. I’d go for Forkish’s book for someone who liked to improvise, Reinhat’s book for someone who likes precision, and both for someone who’s a total geek about learning things.

      The crust, given the high moisture content of the dough, will happen. To soften it nicely, brush the bread with butter while it’s still warm, but not out-of-the-oven hot.Report

  8. Avatar Burt Likko
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    With four loaves under my belt already, I’ve graduated from a Dutch oven to bread pans, and from AP flour to bread flour. I’m wanting more salt in the dough, foil to cover the first half of the bake (no burned hands on pot tops, @tod-kelly !), and I’m using a nonstick spray on the parchment rather than a second splash of olive oil. The bread lasts about three days before going stale, and turns in to very nice French toast when it does.

    I shall never be hungry again.Report

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