I started making bread with both beer yeast and my own starter, with some seriousness, about ten years ago. Then, Youtube and the internet, including a very interesting specialized bread making forum called The Fresh Loaf  sent me on my way to making some pretty good bread. My attraction to bread making in part grows from my nostalgia for authenticity. Making our own bread can be one step toward recovering the gravity of connections lost on supermarket bread and the kind of supply chain that supper market bread represents. The use of Youtube and the internet as my chief instructors, both dubious technological gifts, should not be passed over as mere irony.

From the Youtube I learned to mimic some of the hand-work needed to: mix, to stretch the dough gluten, to shape and to prepare the bread for baking and scoring the bread. From the bread forum I was able to find solutions to some of my bread making problems. For example, sometimes loaves would split in a long line along the length of the bread. I found solutions to this and other questions from experienced bakers on the bread forums as well as other sites. I still don’t have a clear answer to why my early loaves split. However, they no longer do. My best guess is that now I treat the consistency of the dough with seriousness and stretch the gluten after the long rise and right before I shape the bread.

Here, my instructions for making bread are more idiosyncratic than ideal. These steps, however, lead to a pretty good bread.


1. Flour
Four cups of flour, bread flour, whole wheat, or other flowers that you desire. If you want to make the bread with different flours you should still use no less than one cup of white bread flour. To make bread I have used, rye flour, whole wheat, and Kalmut.

2. Salt
2 tablespoons

3. Additives
Spices and or nuts: I use sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or walnuts. For spice I use caraway seeds sometimes anise. Use what you feel comfortable using. Recently I have been using diastatic malt powder. This powder, made from barley. It helps the yeast work. I seem to get a better texture and flavor by adding about ½ tea spoon per cup of flower.

4. Yeast
½ to 1 teaspoon of, active dry, beer yeast. So called no kneed technically uses as little as ¼ teaspoon yeast for 3 cups of flour.

5. Water
1 1/8 to 1 ½ Cup of water. (remember we add yeast into about a 1/8th cup of water).

The method I use came to be called “no kneed.” When I started to make bread those ten years ago, no kneed bread was all the rage among bakers but I have read that the process was well known as early as 1739.1 Beer yeast and sourdough bread are made with the same basic steps but making the starter-yeast as well as folding it into the bread dough is only slightly complicated than beer yeast bread.

For me, the process of making bread begins the evening before the bread is baked at about 7pm and ends with a baked loaf about 6pm the next day. Waiting for the dough to rise is the most time consuming part of the process. Mixing, working with the dough and baking amounts to a little less than two hours.



Prepare containers:
1. Large mixing bowl,
2. A small bowl (for additives)
3. Measuring cup.
4. Small cup for yeast and water mixture
5. Wooden spoon
6. Measuring spoons.

Prepare yeast, salt and additives. Pour yeast into about a quarter cup of water, mix and set aside. Put the measured salt in to a small bowl and add spices or nuts to the bread pour them also into the small bowl.

Measure flour into the mixing bowl. Add the water. Mix the flour with a nice strong wooden spoon at first, then mix with your hands. Never mix like you are chopping, mix instead in a tight determined and aware circle and looping pattern so to encourage the development of long strands of gluten. On the other hand, it is important not to spend too much time mixing the flour. Stop mixing when all the flour is saturated with water. Pack into a nice round ball and let sit between 20 minutes and an hour. This is called letting the dough autolyse. Return to the dough and mix in the soaked yeast; also pour into the mixing bowl the small bowl with salt and discretionary herbs, spices or nuts. Mix, as above, until thoroughly mixed. Let rise overnight. Cover the dough with a wet cloth.


Stretching: developing the gluten

In the morning, about 9 AM. Take the risen dough with your hands, shape into a ball and stretch the dough as far as you can without breaking it. Never break the gluten strands. Stretch and roll back into a ball several, maybe ten times. Try to stretch the dough in in the same direction every time. After the dough has been stretched return it to the mixing bowl, replace the cover and return to it around 3pm. If you don’t stretch the dough you are likely to have bread that lacks that lacks a ‘chewy’ texture and crumbles.


Shaping and Baking

Sprinkle a bit of flower on the table that you will be using to shape the bread. If you want to make a boule, a round loaf of bread, flatten your dough to about 1” in height making sure that there are no air bubbles in the dough (Figs 1 and 2). Now fold in the four corners of the round dough and then the remaining dough of the circle to meet at the center (Figs 3 and 4). Pinch the dough at the center, again, making sure there are no air bubbles. Turn the ball upside down and drag the folded and pinched hemisphere of the dough against your working surface making sure to close, compress and shape the dough into a nice even ball (Figs 5 and 6). Let sit for about 15 or 20 minutes and repeat the process. Now place the shaped dough into your proofing basket. Let rise for about an hour. The process is likewise for a rectangular loaf or oblong flat bread; press out the dough in to a rectangle, fold long sides at the middle and the short sides to a point similar to the distance that the long sides had to be folded to the middle etc.



Normally baking bread takes about 35 to 40 minutes. I set my oven to about 450 degrees F. Of course we need to keep watching. The key to a good crust is a steamy oven or bake the bread in a Dutch oven. When baking bread without the use of a Dutch oven I place a pan of water on the bottom shelf of the oven as I preheat the oven in order to steam up the oven.

Score the bread. When the shaped and proofed dough is set on the pan, just prior to baking the loaf needs to be scored. To score the bread I use a small, wet serrated knife. Professionals use a razor blade with a special handle called a lame. My serrated knife does just fine. I score the bread either in “diamonds” or an acute angle to the bread about an inch apart.

While a steamy oven makes a good loaf of bread, the best bread is baked in a ceramic crock with a cover or a Dutch oven. The crock distributes the heat evenly and keeps the steaming moisture rising from the dough concealed within the crock making a nice thick crust.

In either case, if you cook the bread open in an oven or a crock, you will have to watch the bread. The common rule of thumb is that when the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190º F the bread is done. I’ve only measured the internal temperature of bread once. Normally bread can withstand a little bit of over-baking if it comes to that but I find that once a normal loaf of bread is in the oven just over 30 minutes and or reaches that ‘golden brown’ you can pull it out. It is best to let the bread sit for a while so that it’s crust develops. Then like a ceramic pot with a crazing glaze that ‘pings’ as cools, having just left the kiln; your bread will emit cracking sounds as it cools in the air.

There are so many good reasons to make your own bread. I find entire process itself pleasurable. And, when a freshly baked boule sits at the table, still warm the bread’s significance is self-evident.

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