Bread gets a bad rap. Unfairly so.
Fad diets proclaim the dangers of carbohydrates, banishing the bread basket to the corner to sulk. But the truth is, carbohydrates provide the body with the fuel it needs for normal organ function and physical activity. Of course, quantity and quality deserve consideration; some kinds of carbohydrates are far better than others. Grains intact from foods such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole oats, and lesser known gems such as quinoa and bulgur, contain B vitamins, Vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber to help reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
There’s been recent scrutiny over ‘ultra-food processing’ and its contribution to obesity rates. Making food at home, especially baked goods, helps to ensure that salt, sugars and fats — which can be used to improve flavor of processed, pre-packaged foods — are used with discretion. You control the ingredients, including how many and how much. Home cooks typically don’t have the collection of emulsifiers and stabilizers that food manufacturers rely on to preserve taste, texture and shelf life.
Take a look at the ingredients in Wonder Bread, soft, 100% Whole Wheat:
Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup, contains 2% of less of: soybean oil, salt, molasses, yeast, mono and diglycerides, exthoxylated mono and diglycerides, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide), datem, calcium sulfate, vinegar, yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate), extracts of malted barley and corn, dicalcium phosphate, diammonium phosphate, calcium propionate.
That’s a long list for something that inherently consists of flour, yeast and salt.
But there’s no need to pass up a slice at dinner or relegate yourself to lettuce wraps. Why not make your own bread — it’s easy with this No-Knead Bread Recipe from The New York Times.
I’ve been meaning to try this recipe since I laid eyes on it over a year ago — it took a weekend with a nasty cold and a bit of cabin fever to finally get around to it. Patience is key here; as the dough rests overnight for best results. Yet it’s big pay-off with little effort…and only four ingredients.
The bread is tender, sweet, moist with a crusty exterior, rivaling any artisan bread you’d find at the farmer’s market or a fancy restaurant. (Although next time I’ll make sure the dough has a bit more height before baking it so the slices stand up to sandwiches.) Sliced and lightly toasted, it’s the perfect dipping tool with homemade chicken soup to help combat a cold – and the cold weather.
Adapted from the New York Times Recipe. Although I enjoyed this descriptive pictorial from Steamy Kitchen – and, as suggested, I took the liberty of substituting some of the all-purpose flour with 100% whole wheat.
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- In a large bowl combine flours, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
- Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
- Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
- At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is okay. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.