Every Friday evening, our family shares communion together during our Sabbath meal. I love the concreteness of communion, the plainness of the metaphor. God found in the most ordinary and humble place of crushed, fermented grapes and a timely mixture of flour, water, and yeast. “This is Jesus, broken for you,” we say to one another as a loaf is passed around the table.
A good (or even sacredly significant) bread doesn’t need to be handmade, but I admit there’s something connecting about the process of folding and kneading, about joining a long historical lineage of hearth and home. I have recently discovered bread-making to be a great way to occupy little hands and also to help stretch a budget. Likewise, I’m much more likely to balance its part in our family diet when I make it myself.
I prefer it most when eaten straight from the oven, although it reheats nicely as toast nicely too, smeared with fresh avocado, leafy greens, sautéed onions and mushrooms–or any other amalgam of fresh veggies. In its simplest form bread can be deliciously rubbed down with a bit of garlic or butter/jelly or simply used to sop up a yummy sauce or a running egg yolk. Bread can be stored in the freezer for efficiency or larger families. My sister has made the most incredible salad croutons from bread that has lost its soft texture or fresh taste.
I am still new to this bread-making practice (and so are my children), gathering ideas from borrowed library books and online recipes and Pinterest. This loaf has been our favorite thus far for its simple ingredients, easy process, and hard crispy crust.
DAN LEPARD’S EASY WHITE BREAD
3 cups of unbleached bread flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp fine salt
1.25 cups warm water
oil for kneading
Mix the flour, yeast, and salt in a bowl together. Add the warm water and mix together until the dough is combined and shaggy in appearance. I prefer using my hands, although you could technically use a wooden spoon at this point. Cover the bowl with a cloth for ten minutes. Lightly oil the kneading surface, and gently knead the dough folding (instead of pounding) one side over the other, allowing tiny air pockets to form. Return the dough to the bowl and cover again for another 10 minutes. Repeat the process two more times and then leave it to rise for 45 minutes. Wipe the surface clean, and instead lightly dust it with flour. Flour a baking sheet and set aside to have it ready.
If you’ve doubled the recipe (I often do), separate into two lumps at this point. Pat the dough into a small oval, rolling each tightly and pinching it together at the ends for neatness. Place them seam-side down on the pan and again cover them with a cloth. Let the loaves rise again until they double in size. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. When the loaves are ready, slash each one right down the middle and put them in the oven (I typically use a butter knife.). I usually set the timer for 20 minutes to begin checking for doneness. Depending on temperature and humidity it may take upwards of 40 minutes to bake. The crust with be hard and hollow sounding to tap and a golden brown color when finished.
Recipe adapted from Dan Lepard, found in Short and Sweet