In an effort to stay out of the stores as much as possible, I’ve started baking lots of bread at home. This is unusual for me, because I’ve never been the bread-baker in the house… that’s always been my husband’s job. I’ve been the sourdough feeder, but not so much the bread-baker. I’m actually quite the novice.
While my husband likes to feed his sourdough starter and use it as the leavening agent for his baking, I’ve been employing active dry yeast in lukewarm water, from package to bubbly in about five minutes.
He likes to knead his bread and let it rise, knead and rise some more, to create an artisan loaf of deliciousness. I’ve never been known for my patience, especially not the patience that it takes to bake bread the way my husband does it. Bread-making his way is relaxing for people who do it… but it makes me miss having a bread machine that does everything for you.
Yearning for fresh-baked bread and not willing to tackle an old-fashioned method, I scoured the internet for a fast and easy no-knead bread recipe, and found one that I’ve made three times in the last week. The recipe called for flour, active dry yeast, lukewarm water, honey and a little salt. Mix it up, let it sit for a couple hours in a draft-free spot for two hours, then bake it for about half an hour. It was just what I needed.
There are four different types of yeast for baking: active dry yeast, instant yeast, rapid rise yeast, or, if you’re a serious baker, fresh yeast. Most homemade bread recipes call for active dry yeast, or instant yeast. Fresh yeast is the least common yeast.
We once went on a mission in Fort Davis and Alpine, searching for fresh yeast for a rye bread he was making, and we came back empty-handed. We fed our sleeping sourdough starter and waited for it to be ready for use.
There’s also nutritional yeast, which we use in flake-form as a topper for our popcorn because it adds a ton of health benefits and has a cheesy flavor. It can be used in place of cheese in soups, is full of beneficial nutrients, and is not for leavening.
Sourdough is the oldest and most original form of leavened bread. The oldest recorded use of sourdough is from the Ancient Egyptian civilizations, back around 1500 B.C.
If you mix any ground up grain (or grapes or other fruit) with water and then let it sit in the open air at room temperature, wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria in the air will settle in the mix, eat the natural sugars and convert them into lactic (and other) acids which give it a sour flavor. They also give off alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is what will cause the bread to rise. When worked into a bread dough, the bubbles get trapped into the structure of the bread, resulting in the little holes in the sourdough bread.
Who knows, perhaps one of the good things that comes out of these unusual times will be a change in my patience when it comes to baking bread. I think I’m okay with slowing down to try something that people have been doing for thousands of years… I suppose it’s time to wake up that sourdough starter. In the meantime, here’s my yeast bread recipe.
No Need to Knead Homemade Bread
3-1/4 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (450 grams)
1-1/2 cups + 3 tablespoons lukewarm water, divided (396 grams)
1-3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon honey
In a small bowl, add 1/4 cup (60 grams) of lukewarm water, 1 teaspoon of honey (mixed these together before adding the yeast) and then the yeast. Wait 5 minutes, then mix to combine.
In a large glass bowl, add the flour, make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture and remaining water (1-1/4 cups + 3 tablespoons / 340 grams), start to combine with a wooden spoon, then add the salt and combine all of it well. Sprinkle the top with 1 tablespoon of flour.
Cover the bowl, and place it in a warm draft-free area to rest for 2 hours.
After an hour and 45 minutes has passed, pre-heat oven to 420° F (220°C). Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper, sprinkled with flour (I ran out of parchment so I greased and floured a baking sheet).
Using a spatula, transfer the dough (floured side up) onto the prepared sheet. Divide the dough into 3 loaves about 2 inches apart, or leave in one loaf. I’ve done both and they both worked well.
Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until there is a hollow sound when you tap the loaf.