Before I started homekeeping I had all these grand (read: unrealistic) ideas of things I would do. I would keep the house spotlessly clean and beautifully decorated. I would keep the kids entertained with interactive and educational games that I invented. I would make dinner from scratch for Big Man every night and have it ready when he came home from work. I would have all this extra time to invest in myself as well: I’d read more “real” books like non-fiction and classics, I’d learn some useful craft like crocheting, and I’d teach myself to make candles or something else to sell on Etsy.
Then I actually started homekeeping and reality set in. I consider the house clean if I’ve vacuumed in the last week or so and decorated if I light a scented candle. I do play with the kids but usually it is some game with Little Man that he made up using things like cooking utensils or laundry. No Baby Einstein here, and there are plenty of days that I put in a Disney movie for Little Man to watch because it gives me a break to do something non-kid-related like check email or surf the Internet. I don’t make dinner every night and even when I do it is sometimes Hamburger Helper. I still can’t make candles or crochet, and while I am slowly making it through my list of “real” books to read, I generally pick up a novel or magazine if I get time to read. Dickens or Shakespeare not so much.
But I bake homemade bread. It is one of the few things from my unrealistic homekeeping list that I actually do. I love how the house smells when bread is baking, and having homemade bread instead of store-bought makes me feel like a successful homekeeper. The best part is that I don’t have to invest a lot of time to get the payout of homemade bread, thanks to the geniuses that wrote Artisan Bread in Five Minutes Day. This is one of the greatest cookbooks ever, especially because their method actually works! I have tried lots of recipes for different things that don’t work out as advertised (I’ve never been able to make a 30-minute-meal in 30 minutes) but this bread does. I adapted the recipe according to some of the authors’ suggestions because I live at high altitude. Basically I went a little light on the yeast measurement, a little heavy on the salt and used bread flour instead of all purpose. Below is my version of the Master Bread Recipe from the book. I get two nicely rounded 9x4x3 loaves, but there are several other ways to use the dough (see the book). Once you try this method for baking bread at home it will change your life. Seriously. Just try it and see. Seriously
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbs (rounded) Kosher salt
1 1/2 tbs (scant) yeast, I use Rapid Rise
6 1/2 cups bread flour
Stir together water, salt, and yeast in bowl of a stand mixer. Add flour all at once and mix using the dough hook until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Let dough rest 1.5-2 hours until it rises and collapses or flattens on top. Refrigerate at this point or bake right away. To refrigerate, cover bowl (not airtight) and use over the next 14 days.
To bake, sprinkle flour over dough and divide in half. Shape half into a ball and then elongate to fit inside loaf pan. Drop into greased loaf pan and let rest 40 minutes if fresh and 1 hour 40 minutes if refrigerated. (I usually make one loaf right after I mix the dough and refrigerate the rest for another loaf later in the week). Preheat oven to 450 degrees, making sure there is a broiler pan on the lower rack. When oven is ready, dust top of loaf with flour and slash with a sharp knife. Put loaf pan on upper rack and pour 1 cup hot water into broiler pan on lower rack. Close the door quickly so the steam doesn’t escape. Bake 35-45 minutes until top is crusty and deep golden brown. Remove from pan and cool completely before slicing. *Then cover a slice with a thick layer of butter and eat while flipping through Redbook or reading a fluffy novel.*
*Serving suggestion only. You could do something way more sophisticated, like spread with Gorgonzola, pear slices, and honey to enjoy with a glass of wine and Tale of Two Cities. Your call.