Besides my family and my faith, I have three great loves in life: music, running, and food. Oh, and maybe travel. But much of travel is centered around food for me, so let’s stick with the 3: music, running, and food.
I find it quite convenient that God blessed me with 2 such complementary passions: food and running. Whether you eat to run or run to eat, they really do pair well together. I go on long runs, burn lots of calories, need to refuel my body with delicious foods, so I make delicious foods and consume them in hearty quantities. No harm, no foul. Or: I see a scrumptious caramelly-chocolatey-buttery-delicousy recipe on Pinterest and just HAVE to try it, so I make said recipe, consume a (more than hearty) amount of said treat, and then go on a nice long run the next day to help burn it off. It really is a lovely symbiotic relationship.
About 6 years ago, I picked up a masochistic hobby called “marathoning”. They say the sport was inspired by a guy who ran a certain (inhumane) distance to tell some people that they’d won a battle. After delivering his message, he immediately dropped dead. Centuries later, someone said, “Gee, that sounds entertaining! Let’s do that for fun!” And thus was born the sport of running 26.2 miles.
I’ve sold you on it, haven’t I? No? Well, what if I told you that when training for long-distance running, your body needs a crazy amount of carbs. Yes, friends, that translates into bread, pasta, potatoes…all of those wonderful carb-rich foods that so many of us have a closet love affair with, but try not to eat too much of for health reasons (or for fear of adding inches onto our waistline…).
I LOVE CARBS. (See? Running and food = seriously the perfect match of hobbies!) I haven’t done any marathon training since getting pregnant with my first child almost 3 years ago, so sadly I haven’t enjoyed the carb-consuming benefits of marathon training for quite a while. But that doesn’t mean my love obsession with wonderful breads or pastas has ceased. It just means I dream about them more than I eat them these days. Sigh.
But we still love our carbs. Over the past couple years, my husband and I have been getting into “mixing dough”. We spent about a year perfecting our pizza crust (I’ll share that with you soon!), Nick has taken up homemade pasta making, and lately I’ve been trying lots of artisan bread recipes online. Last month, I found my new favorite. Favorite, because it’s probably the easiest recipe I make. Not the easiest bread I make – the easiest RECIPE. Period.
By “new favorite”, I think I’ve made it 5 times in the past 3 weeks. I’m pretty sure that’s a new record. And people are always SUPER impressed with it. Like, SUPER impresed. I try to play it off (“It’s so easy!”), but I should probably just rock it. “Yeah, thanks – slaved away all day making this for you.” But I’d be lying.
4 ingredients. 5 minutes of prep. Tops. And out pops a gorgeous loaf of homemade artisan bread – a perfect crust, golden brown on the outside, hard and crusty; and light, soft bread on the inside. Oh, did I mention it’s super easy? No kneading. That’s right. None. Zero. Zilch.
Seriously, look at that thing. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Want to impress your friends? This will be your new go-to. Trust me.
All you have to do is:
Stir just until combined. DO NOT OVERMIX. My rule of thumb is to mix until there are no pockets of flour on the bottom of the bowl. It should form a “shaggy” dough (isn’t that a great adjective to describe it?).
Do NOT overmix! You risk making the dough tough.
Cover and let it rise in a warm place for 8-24 hours. (I usually mix it up in the morning, let it rise all day, and then bake it for dinner. ~8 hours)
I generally put it in my oven with the oven light on. Makes it nice and toasty in there.
Preheat your oven and dutch oven*.
See all those glorious bubbles? That makes for some fluffy, chewy bread.
Turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper (or a well-floured surface, but I’m obsessed with parchment paper. It has saved so me from so many headaches and so many culinary disasters. You won’t regret using it in this recipe; it’s a very very soft dough, and parchment paper makes it so easy to handle). Form it into a loaf (ie. squish it into a dome shape), sprinkle with flour to keep it from sticking, cover and let rest while the oven preheats.
Place the loaf in the dutch oven and COVER IT.
I just lower it down into the dutch oven, parchment paper and all.
Bake for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake for another 7-15 minutes until the crust is golden brown and hard.
*I don’t actually own a dutch oven. Yet. It’s on my wish list. I yearn. BUT – you can use lots of things in place of a dutch oven. To make this bread, I just use the ceramic insert of my crockpot, and then use an all-metal lid from one of my stovetop stock pots. Google (source of all knowledge) tells me that you can even just use a regular large pot, as long as pieces (handles, lid) can withstand 450 degrees. You could use a deep casserole dish with a lid, as well.
The possibilities with this one are endless. On Sunday, we made a rosemary & cracked pepper loaf (yum), and yesterday we made a jalapeño cheddar loaf (photos below – see all those delightful bubbles in that bread? They bring joy to my little dough mixing soul!) Get creative and try your favorite combinations of herbs, cheese, nuts, fruits, seeds…and then let me know how it went so I can add it to my repertoire of artisan breads!
- 3 cups flour
- ½ - 1 tsp yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 ½ cups lukewarm water
- Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Stir gently to combine.
- Make a well in the middle, and pour in the water. Stir gently, just until combined. Dough will look "shaggy".
- Cover with a towel and place in a warm place. Let rise for 8 - 24 hours.
- When ready to bake: set oven to 450 degrees. Put dutch oven in oven and let preheat for 30 minutes.
- Pour dough onto a piece of parchment paper, or a VERY well-flour surface (I swear by parchment paper). Form into a loaf shape (ie. circle/dome); sprinkle with flour, cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Once dutch oven is preheated, place the dough in the dutch oven (I gently lower the parchment paper with the dough on it into the dutch oven). Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove lid and bake another 7-15 minutes, until top is golden and hard (mine usually takes 10-15).