I’ve always been meaning to bake bread from scratch, especially sourdough bread but I never got down to doing it. Firstly, I’m always busy and never have enough hours in a row for the bread to proof and secondly, I was afraid it wouldn’t turn out right and it will be a waste of my ingredients.
Tip: Do not rush through this bread making process – it’s therapeutic! Enjoy it. Plus, if you can multitask efficiently, you can use the proofing time to clean the kitchen or do other work or cook other foods in the mean time. The first time I baked the bread, I cooked soup during the proofing time. The second time, I baked banana muffins. Killed 2 birds with 1 stone! 😀 Yippiieeee..
But, it was one of my Austrian friend, Michael’s birthday last week and all he wanted was hard, crusty European bread. Strange request!! haha Bread is such a big part of their diet. Almost every meal there’s always fresh bread available – it’s pretty understandable to miss high quality fresh bread. In Austria, they have many many types of bread available. And, highly accessible. This bread I made isn’t Austrian though. Their most typical one would be the black rye (I’ve never tried it but that’s what i’ve been told by my Austrian friends). You would be surprised how difficult it is to find artisan, fresh baked bread that doesn’t contain sugar and doesn’t look like plastic on the outside. I have absolutely no idea what they put on the bread but bread in LA (well, the area I live in) is not quite the most normal..
Anyway, I figured this is probably the best time to get over my excuses of not baking bread and just give it my best shot. I googled around for many recipes to get the general idea of baking bread (I’ve absolutely no experience) and some recipes required high protein flour. I had to scrap those recipes off because there is just no way of getting high protein flour around where I live. I could get it online but it’s still not that easy. Anyway, the point is you can make bread simply using plain flour!! You can use high protein flour too if you have. It’s highly recommended by my dad – the chef! 🙂 I haven’t tried baking gluten free or sourdough or rye breads but I’ll get there eventually. This is just the beginning..
It turned out yummy! It was hard and crusty on the outside, soft and fluffy in the inside. The first time I baked it, my housemates demolished the entire loaf in a few minutes. I’m not even exaggerating. Bread fresh out of the oven, slathered with a generous amount of salted butter… Hmm.. it was heavenly!!
I got this bread recipe from My Humble Kitchen. Watch the video in her blog.
Makes 1 loaf of bread
- 2 1/2 cups plain flour (you’ll add more as you knead)
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 tsp active yeast
- 1 1/4 cup warm water
- extra virgin olive oil
- Mix the flour, salt, and yeast.
- Add the warm water and stir into a slightly wet dough and knead
- Add a tablespoon of flour at a time. Do not too much flour at a time because a dry dough will result in a dense, hard bread. Altogether, I added 2-3 tbsps of extra flour. Knead for 3-4 minutes. The dough should remain slightly sticky and malleable but not wet.
- Once the dough is holding together, add a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil to the dough and shape into a tight ball. (The extra virgin olive oil will give flavour and prevent the dough from sticking to your hands)
- Place the dough into an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp towel. Allow to rise in a warm environment for one hour.
- Once the dough has doubled, carefully remove the dough from the bowl onto a floured counter. Be extra gentle with the dough by picking it up slowly from the rims of the bowl. The purpose is to keep the gasses the yeast has created in the dough. This is makes the bread light and fluffy!
- With floured hands, sprinkle a bit of flour onto the dough and shape it into a tight ball.
- Place it on top of parchment or wax paper and score the top with a sharp knife. Brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle some flour to get that rustic look.
- Cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel for an additional 20 minutes in a warm environment.
- While it’s resting, preheat your oven to 500F or 260C.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 500F or 260C. Keep an eye on the bread incase it gets too brown.
- Then, lower the oven temperature to 350F or 176C and bake for an additional 25 minutes.
- Remove the bread with the parchment paper to a cooling rack.
Review from my European friends: Tastes great – tastes like real bread, finally! It’s more like Italian ciabatta bread but delicious.
Review from my American housemates: I mean they basically demolished my bread. It was gone within minutes but they also said “this was the kind of bread they’d get full on in restaurants before their main meal because it’s so good”. My roommate’s sister, Sade said she wishes it was her birthday too! Hahahaha..
Tip 1: I proof my bread by placing the bowl on the door of the low heat oven so that the dough will have a warm enough environment. You can leave it out too but my apartment just wasn’t warm enough and warmth for the yeast to proof is crucial. Just something I learnt a few years ago.
Tip 2: Make sure the yeast is fresh and not expired!! Expired yeast will result in hard, not nice bread. That’s happened to me – no fun.
The next time I bake this, I’m planning to add extra ingredients such as olives, semidried tomatoes, feta cheese, jalapenos, italian herbs, seeds etc into the bread to naturally flavour it. Anything that will complement the flavour of the bread!
Let me know how you go. This bread is easy and it is worth it – trust me on this one!!