I love baking bread… it is my thing on Saturday or Sunday mornings. Lately, my bread baking has mostly been the no kneading involved type. The end product is still lovely but I miss making bread for real. Which for me means touching and really feeling the dough… stirring water into the dry ingredients until your poor arm can’t stir anymore, moving the dough on the counter, forming it into a ball, folding it over, pressing it with the palms of your hands, waiting for it to rise, moving it to the baking sheet and forming it one last time, and then slashing the tops with the tip of a knife right before popping it in the oven.
With that said, although Mark Bittman says to just stir everything together and let it sit, I couldn’t help myself and had to knead the dough. Because this dough was wetter than others I have made before, handling it made everything just stick to my hands. So, I had to add 5 teaspoons of flour (one teaspoon at a time) until the dough was to the consistency that I liked… still kinda wet but not oozing through my fingers. Also as this dough is wetter than most, I used a delicate touch with it and folded it over and over and pushed with the palms of my hands ever so gently and formed it into a ball. I then poured a bit of olive oil on my palm and wiped it all over the inside of the mixing bowl and the outside of the dough ball so it pulls away easily when I’m ready to move it to the baking sheet.
I let mine sit for exactly 24 hours. Using a rubber spatula, I gently scraped the sides and the bottom until the dough pulled away from the bowl. Instead of using a bread pan for this, I used a baking sheet and greased it with dots of butter spread all over with my hands (*See note on using butter to grease baking sheets). Then, I dusted my hands generously with flour and moved the dough to a clean counter dusted with flour. I gently flattened the dough, folded it over twice, and formed it into a ball. The ball was moved to the pan and the top was lightly dusted with flour. As per Bittman’s instructions, I let it sit for another two hours before baking it. Right before it went in the oven, I made some slashes on the top of the dough for a rustic look and also to allow gas to escape so the bread doesn’t split itself on top while baking.
|getting ready to sit for a day|
|after 24 hours|
|shaped into a ball, rose 2 more hours, dusted, slashed, ready to go in the oven|
*NOTE: From my experiences with baking, I have found that it is easier to clean baking sheets or pans if I grease them with butter. Every time I use oil, it leaves an annoying, sticky stain that never seems to come off and causes my pans to look old and rusty. Seriously, I have spent countless hours trying to rub these oil stains off with hot water and soap, letting it sit with baking soda and water… maddening! With butter, there’s none of that stickiness, just regular grease that comes off after a quick, soapy rinse.
The crust is chewy and not very thick and the inside is dense yet soft. Letting the bread sit for a day was well worth it because it imparted a nice, slightly sour tang.
DFJ and I enjoyed this bread as a bruschetta with honeyed rhubarb-walnut jam with basil and feta cheese on top. Toasting the bread slices in the oven for a few minutes gave it a nice, perfect crunch.
Honeyed Rhubarb-Walnut Jam Bruschetta
½ cup walnuts, chopped3 tbsp honey
4 stalks rhubarb, sliced
5 large fresh basil leaves, torn
feta cheese, crumbled
Real Whole Wheat Bread or any good bread, sliced thin
Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, toast the chopped walnuts and stir often until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the honey one tablespoon at a time. The honey will make big, beautiful bubbles as soon as it gets in contact with the hot pan. Stir for about a minute. Throw in the rhubarb and let cook, stirring often until the rhubarb is soft and falling apart, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and add the torn basil leaves. Mix well.
Toast bread slices in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F for about 3 minutes. Sprinkle feta cheese on top and serve immediately.
P.S. For some notes and pictures on kneading bread dough, check out this post.