I feel like I have been away for ages. I don’t like that. It’s like missing a friend so terribly but then getting incredibly excited when you get to see them again. That is this. This blog, you readers, creating recipes… all of it. It feels good to be back. Even though I feel bumbly and out of practice.
To catch up for a minute, we are finally settled into our place in Philly. We got here on the 15th after two very long and stressful days of driving with cats crying in the backseat as if I was murdering them. I felt like a terrible cat mother because I could not sooth them. I was sure they would never let me force cuddle them again. But thankfully I was wrong.
The day after we got our moving truck cleared out and into our place I went on another long drive from Philly to Cape Cod for a fantastic bachelorette party for my bestie. I feel like I got my city driving feet wet quickly with my drive into New York City on the way to pick up a friend for the party. I also think I’m completely insane for doing that. But it worked out well and now I think it might be a dangerous thing to know that I could do it sort of easily. New York has a magnetic pull on me.
But I have finally had some time to get everything organized and functional in our place. Mainly the kitchen, which I LOVE! It is amazing. So open with tons of light from our huge windows and it just feels so good to cook in it. I feel happy in there. It is starting to feel like home. I have no doubt that it will be far more inspiring than my closed in little box from our last place.
Before we left I was dreaming up a new series called “Back to Basics” focusing on standard baked goods. I wanted to simplify recipes and do some baking science to make baking feel very approachable. The second I started to tell my husband about the series he interrupted me and said, “That all sounds great. But I see one problem. You need to call it Back to ‘Bake’sics. Get it?…” So here we are.
It all started with that 5 Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe I posted. I love the idea of a stripped down recipe. Down to just the basics. It helps understand baking science and then gives you a blank slate to get creative. So today we are doing a blank slate bread recipe. An extremely simple, no-knead, 4 ingredient bread recipe. It really can’t get much more simple. I have heard many people say that they are scared to use yeast or that they always kill it. But trust me, this is fool proof! No special baking skills or equipment required!
Yeast- For this simple and basic recipe you can really use any kind of active yeast. Active dry, rapid rise, or cake or fresh yeast (though this is very difficult to find). Just don’t use nutritional yeast! That is a whole other animal. If you buy bulk yeast, store it in the freezer to keep it fresh.
Water- Water wakes up and activates the yeast. Here is where people may be “killing” the yeast. You want warm water. Not hot! Just lukewarm. Somewhere between 100-110 degrees F. But here is the thing: If you don’t have a thermometer and are scared of killing the yeast, play it safe by going cooler. Cold water won’t ruin the recipe. It will just take it much longer to rise. Try for at least room temperature water.
Flour- Flour is the yeast’s food. Yeast feeds on sugar and will break down the starch in the flour to eat and grow or rise. Bread flour or all-purpose flour can be used. If all you have on hand is self-rising flour, that is fine, but leave out the other salt in the recipe. Salt is already in self-rising flour and too much salt can kill yeast.
Salt- Salt not only flavors the bread, but also slows down the yeast a bit. Dough without salt will rise much faster resulting in larger air pockets and an uneven crumb to the bread. Kosher salt is preferable because it has a bit of a course grain to it, but if you only have table salt you can use it. Just cut the amount of salt in the recipe in half.
That’s it. Yeast, water, flour, and salt! If you buy yeast in bulk like me, you probably always have all of these ingredients on hand. It is really nice to be able to whip up a loaf of bread on a lazy Sunday afternoon. And if you don’t want to sit around waiting for it to rise, store the dough in the fridge over night or even for a few days. It will slowly rise and will be ready for you when you want to make some bread!
This is a very rustic free form bread recipe. You can form it into two loafs or one big circle. I did a circular large loaf in my cast iron skillet because my baking sheets are all still in Kansas. I’m totally not sad about it. (That is a bold faced lie) You could also use an oven proof pot. But just don’t use a glass pan. This bread is a bit crusty and it will be difficult or impossible to get out of the pan.
You could also stir in some fresh herbs, garlic, nuts, or seeds when making the dough. It is a blank slate! Do with it as you wish. I just made it plain and then used it for breakfast sandwiches. I then made croutons for our salads and bread crumbs with some of the drier bits. I still have about half a loaf left and might make some bread pudding or a sweet strata later today. Aaaand my husband just woke up requesting french toast.
What baking questions do you have? Or do you have any requests for some simple recipes of a certain baked good? I love to make baking more approachable for people!
- 1 package active dry or rapid rise yeast (2¼ tsp yeast)
- 2 cups luke warm water
- 4⅓ cups flour (all-purpose, bread, or self-rising)
- 2 tsp kosher salt (if using self-rising flour, omit salt)
- In a large bowl combine the yeast and water.
- Add the flour and salt and stir until combined. The batter will be lumpy, but there should not be any visibly dry flour left.
- Cover with a towel or loose plastic wrap and let rise until double in size, about 2 hours. (this time will be shorter if using rapid rise yeast)
- Generously sprinkle flour over top of risen dough and cover hands with flour. Pick up the dough and pull down on the sides shaping into desired shape. Transfer onto baking sheet, skillet or pot.
- Let dough rise again for 45 mins-1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 375ºF.
- Slash the top of the dough several times with a sharp knife.
- Bake for 45 mins-1 hour until the browned on top and cooked through.
- Let cool before slicing.
- If bread is left over, place sliced side down on a cutting board and leave and room temperature.