Do not fear the bread. Make some tomorrow. Impress your friends and family. It's the right thing to do.
My cousins came down for Easter this year and it was so great to have them around! Also great because they shared a bread baking method with me that I had never considered before. Cooking bread in a Le Creuset! Usually I use my pizza stone when I make bread but this idea intrigued me and I had to give it a try.
I altered the recipe to fit my needs (i.e I added flax and whole wheat flour and adjusted the water amounts and salt) - but tried the cooking method in the covered pot (you can use cast-iron, steel, enamel or ceramic to bake your bread). The bread turned out well and made a lovely wheat sandwich bread with a great crust.
BUT! HOLD THE PHONE! I also baked up a white version just to see the difference in texture... and WOW let me tell you... I was blown away. It is absolutely DELICIOUS! The texture is light and fluffy like a ciabtta with a gorgeous crust. This isn't just a sandwich bread, we couldn't stop eating it. This is the best bread I have made (Thanks Amy!).
Now my cousin's recipe only had one rise before cooking it in the oven (ie. form the loaf and then drop it into the preheated baking vessel without letting it rise again)... But I couldn't stop myself from doing 2 rises (that's how I've always done it! She makes it all the time with only one rise and says it is fantastic so feel free to skip the second rise)
People often think that bread is very difficult to make and thus don't bake it fresh. I think that is a crime. Bake your own bread people! It's so simple! You don't even need a baking stone - just a covered pot or baking sheet preheated in a hot oven. I made the dough for this bread in ~10 minutes last night in my Kitchenaid mixer, although you could also do it by hand. Then it simply rises overnight and you form the dough into a ball and let it rise again and throw it in the oven!
Wait don't throw it, dough is delicate... be gentle with it. Treat it like a lady.
Recipe: Artisan Breads at Home
Whole Wheat Version:
1 1/2 cups bread flour (you can use all purpose)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour (or whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup whole flax seeds
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast*
1 1/2 cups warm water (~110 degrees F)
White Bread Version:
3 cups all purpose flour OR white bread flour
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (~110 degrees F)
* I increased the yeast in the whole wheat version since the wheat flour might need a bit more lift
I would love to add sundried tomatoes to this or rosemary
Next time I make the white version I'm going to add flax and sunflower seeds to make a seed bread
Baking The Bread:
Covered Pot: you can use cast-iron, steel, enamel or ceramic to bake your bread
Place all the ingredients minus the warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment OR alternatively use a large mixing bowl and wooden spoon.
Mixer: Using the paddle attachment, mix the dough on low and add the water slowly until the flour is incorporated. Switch to the dough hook and mix on low for ~ 5 minutes (the dough should pull away from the sides but stick slightly to the bottom).
By Hand: Simply mix all the ingredients until they form a cohesive mass. Knead the dough for ~ 5 min and form into a uniform ball (add small bits of flour if needed but try and keep the dough wet).
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise overnight for ~ 12 hours on the counter. When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured counter and gently form into a uniform ball of dough.
Single Rise Method: Skip double rise step and proceed to preheating the oven.
Double Rise Method: Sit the dough on a piece of lightly floured parchment, a Silpat, or a lightly floured kitchen towel (if using the pot method). Flour the top lightly and cover it with plastic wrap or fold the towel overtop of the dough ball. Let it rise for ~ 1 hour for the second rise. If using a pizza stone or baking sheet, let rise on a lightly floured pizza peel or flat object so you can slide the dough onto the baking sheet or stone once risen. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with the baking vessel IN THE OVEN - very important. The baking sheet, pot, or pizza stone must be preheated IN THE OVEN.
Once the oven is heated, you can slash the top of the bread ( I just made a cross using a hot knife to make it pretty).
For the pot: Place your hand on top of the loaf and gently place it in your hand and flip it into the hot pot. Quickly cover the pot and bake covered for 25 minutes before removing the lid and cooking for another 15 minutes.
Pizza stone/baking sheet: Use your peel (or un-edged baking sheet) to slide the loaf onto the surface. Bake for ~40 minutes.
The bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped and registers 180-200 degrees F when poked with an instant read thermometer. Let the bread cool on a wire rack before slicing into it. Enjoy!