I haven’t made bread since I was 10 years old and in 4-H, my mother’s answer to Girl Scouts (not same btw). But I digress. It’s not that I don’t like bread, I do. In fact, the smell of baking bread is one of my most favorite smells in the world. I’m pretty sure that if they bottled a perfume called “Fresh Baked Bread” they’d sell out in minutes. And just think of all of the romantic possibilities this fragrance could start…your significant other slathering some butter or jam on to your neck and going from there (digressing again – sorry).
I had heard lots of rumblings about no knead bread recipes lately, it seems that there is a new book out called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, but I was motivated to actually try this when I was over at Hannah’s Honey and Jam website. If your only familiarity with bread is the kind that is pre-sliced and encased in a plastic bag, you have no idea what you are missing. Making this bread may take a bit longer than running down to your local supermarket, but it isn’t any more difficult.
Since my parents were coming to stay with us for a few days, I decided to whip up a batch. Of course I timed it so that they got to smell the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the house. Since they hear that I’ve been cooking, what better way to impress them than this?
Not content with leaving a perfectly good recipe alone, I split the dough in half to make two different kinds of bread. I got 4 6″ round loaves from this recipe. Two of the loaves were of the plain variety and two of the loaves received an addition of dried apricots and manchego cheese. The apricots and manchego cheese loaves were perfect by themselves, but went especially well with beer and wine.
Sometimes doing simple things impress the people you care about most. It doesn’t always require grandiose gestures to get someone’s attention or to impress them. In fact, the simpler something is the more it shows you care. If you haven’t noticed, in your day to day life, people don’t pay attention to the little things. How many times has someone walked through a door, ahead of you, and actually held it for you? How many times have you said “have a nice day” to the person behind the counter at your coffee shop? It’s those kinds of things that make you a memorable person.
Makes 4 6″ Loaves
- 3 Cups Lukewarm Water (more water needed for cooking)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons Active Dry Yeast (roughly 2 packets)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
- 6 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 1/2 Cup Dried Apricots (diced)
- 1/2 Cup Manchego Cheese (diced)
- Cornmeal (for dusting)
In a large mixing bowl mix water, yeast and salt. Let sit for 30 minutes. You’ll see some foam on top of the water.
Add all of the flour to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. I used a long handled wooden spoon to thoroughly combine the flour. You only need to mix the flour until you don’t see any more flour streaks running through the dough. If you are having trouble combining all of the flour, you can add more water (a tablespoon at a time) and keep stirring.
Leave the dough in the bowl and cover loosely with a non terry cloth towel. Sit the bowl in a place that is warm and not drafty. Let dough rise roughly 2 hours.
Separate the dough into 2 halves. With the first half of dough, cut dough in half again.
Cover your hands, lightly, in flour. Take 1/4 of the bread and pull edges under, to the bottom of the dough so that you have a smooth dome. Repeat with remaining 1/4 of dough. Sprinkle cornmeal on cutting board and put both dough domes on board.
With remaining half of dough, mix in diced apricots and manchego cheese. This is easily done by working the apricots and cheese into the dough with your hands.
Split this dough in half and turn out domes as with the plain dough. Sprinkle cornmeal on cutting board and put both dough domes on board.
Let dough rest for 40-60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Farenheit.
Place a pizza stone, or cast iron skillet, on the middle rack of your oven. On a lower rack place a broiler pan or half sheet pan (you’ll be adding water to this pan so make sure the pan has sides on it).
Lightly dust the top of each loaf and slash the top 1/4″ deep.
Place a loaf (or loaves) on the pizza stone or skillet. Pour 1 cup of hot water into broiler pan/half sheet pan and quickly close the oven door, so that the steam stays in the oven.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until top is nicely golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool.