Best Bread Ever

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Its the simple delicious bread recipe that caused our bread machine to lose it’s place in our kitchen. When I was selling it at area farmer’s markets, a customer called it the best bread ever. She didn’t even know how simple it is to make. Two loaves that compare in size and quality to what Panera sells for over $3.00 each cost less than a dollar to make at home. It is a no knead bread with the simplest ingredients. I’ll describe and show 3 variations on the basic no knead bread that Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery made famous about a decade ago.

For the bread a customer called the best ever, I followed the ingredient list of the famous loaf: flour, salt, yeast, and water. It is just four basic ingredients. My variation was to divide the loaf in half and bake it on a sheet lined with parchment paper. It results in less cooking time and a crust that is not as extremely crusty as the original no knead recipe of Lahey. His is baked in a hotter oven and in a preheated casserole or cast iron pot.

My recipe:

3 cups flour (unbleached bread flour best but all purpose works)

1 and 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon yeast

1 and 1/2 cups water (Filtered room temperature preferred)

Mix the ingredients and place in a medium sized bowl. Cover and let rise 12-18 hours. Yes it needs to be planned a day in advance, but the flavor resulting from the long room temp rise is outstanding. Remove dough from bowl onto a well floured surface. It is a very sticky dough so don’t be stingy flouring the surface or your hands.

IMG_20151014_060604543Divide the dough in half and roll into a ciabatta shape. Place each loaf on a baking sheet for easy clean up. Let it rise for about an hour.

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Preheat oven to 430 F. When oven is hot, bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove and enjoy when partially cooled. If you won’t eat both by the next day, freeze one.

For a one day version use a half a teaspoon of yeast and let rise 8-10 hours. This schedule allows mixing in the morning, going to work, then shaping, 2nd rise and baking after returning. It turns out almost as good and still better and less sugar than bread machine recipes.

For a higher fiber loaf use 1 cup whole wheat flour and 2 cups bread flour. I also use a 1/4 cup of kefir (I make my own) as part of the liquid when using part whole wheat. The added flavor allows the salt to reduced to 1 teaspoon. This is my new standard loaf (and what is in the photos) now that we are empty nesters. But when the college girl comes home she gets her favorite. Adding herbs and/or garlic can also boost flavor and allow a reduced salt amount. For flavor and simplicity this ranks as my best ever bread.

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