I love the way that is smells when it’s baking. I love the sweet, yeasty flavor it adds to soup, salad, and homemade sandwiches. I love the crispy crust and the soft doughy inside of a fresh loaf of artisan bread.
My love for bread began as a child, when my Greek Yiya would bake homemade sweet bread during the holidays. I often tried to bake bread, but struggled to get it to rise correctly, or bake all the way through. So, many of my homemade loaves served better as a door stop than as a side dish to our meals.
I gave up on making dinner loaves, and started buying these beautiful artisan breads from the farmers markets and grocery stores for upwards of $5 a loaf. After we had a family of six to feed, I quickly discovered that children also love warm bread and that a loaf of bread can really extend a dinner for a larger family. I once again set off on a bread baking quest with similar results.
One day, I was researching survival meals, just in case, and came across this very simple bread recipe. I figured I had better try to bake a loaf so that I wasn’t using up food supplies that we might need in an emergency situation on an experimental recipe.
This bread required no kneading and four simple ingredients that are easy to store. Water, salt, flour, and yeast are all that are needed for the basic recipe — and it costs about 50 cents per loaf to make when the ingredients are bought in bulk.
I made one loaf for my family, and they ate it up in one sitting. This has become my go-to recipe. It turns out perfectly every time, and is so quick to prepare. I have started adding different ingredients to the dough also, depending on what we are having for dinner. A few of our favorite add-ins are flax seed, roasted garlic, sliced olives, and various cheeses.
• 1½ cups water (raw milk or whey can be substituted)
• 1 Tbsp yeast (two pounds costs $8 and lasts me a year)
• 1 Tbsp sugar (optional)
• ½ Tbsp salt
• 3 cups flour, any type (I use 1 cup whole wheat flour and 2 cups of white flour)
Warm the water, milk, or whey in a large bowl until warm (not hot, or you will kill the yeast).
Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. yeast and 1 Tbsp. sugar on top of water. The sugar is optional, but I find that it helps the yeast rise quickly.
Allow to rest for about 3-5 minutes or until the yeast starts to sprout to the top.
Sprinkle ½ Tbsp salt over the top and add the 3 cups of flour. Mix with a spoon until all ingredients are well mixed. The dough will be too sticky too handle.
If you wish to add anything to the dough (olives, cheese, herbs) this is the time. For the bread pictured, I added one cup of farm cheese, crumbled.
Cover with a loose lid or greased plastic wrap and wrap the bowl in a towel or blanket. On warm days, I allow for it to rise on the porch or in a window. In the fall and winter months, I run the dryer for 2-3 minutes and then place the wrapped bowl into the warm dryer with the door closed.
Allow to rise for 3-4 hours or until doubled in size.
After it has risen, the dough will be very sticky. Flour the top and your hands enough to be able to handle the dough. Gently form the dough into a ball by wrapping the sides under. Let the dough ball rest in the bowl while you warm the oven.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I bake my bread inside a small, 24-ounce Dutch oven, and I also heat the Dutch oven in the oven during the preheating stage. After the oven reaches 400 degrees, simply drop your dough ball into the hot Dutch oven. Put the lid on and bake for about 40 minutes.
If you want a soft crust, leave the lid on until you can stick a knife into the center and it comes out clean. If you want a crispy crust, remove the lid after 30 minutes, and allow the crust to brown up.
Remove the finished bread from the Dutch oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing so that it holds its shape.
If you do not have a Dutch oven, you can bake the bread on a greased cookie sheet with a pan of water underneath. Fill the pan of water with about 1-2 inches of water and place on bottom rack while the oven heats up and while baking. You can also set one of those dollar-store tin baking pans over the top of your bread while baking to create a chewier and softer bread.
If you use the baking sheet method, you will still bake the bread at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Baking times will vary based on the shape of the loaf and your oven.
Melissa Souza lives on a 1-acre, organically managed homestead property in rural Washington State where she raises backyard chickens and meat rabbits and grows plums, apples, pears, a variety of berries, and all the produce her family needs. She loves to inspire other families to save money, be together, and take steps toward self-reliance no matter where they live. Connect with her on Facebook.
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