I posted last week about my views on the relationship between soup and bread. To reiterate: I think soup should be eaten with bread as the primary utensil, rather than silly things like spoons. It's nature's way.
In general, my love of bread with my soup is easy to fulfill. However, when I made last week's Tomato-Vegetable Soup with Turkey, I realized that I had forgotten to buy any bread to accompany it. Worse yet, the weather was gross, so I really didn't want to leave the apartment and go to the store. The solution: make some bread! It's super easy, cost-effective, and way better than anything the Meijer bakery could have offered me anyhow.
This bread is incredibly easy to make, and - for bread - very quick. It's about 5 hours from raw ingredients to finished loaf. It's not exactly lightning fast, but you don't need an overnight rise or lots of kneading - any kneading at all, in fact! I like to to mix the ingredients and let things rise before work, then bake once I get home. Give it a try!
This is a very simple recipe: you probably have all of the ingredients on-hand! All you need is flour, yeast, salt, a bit of olive oil, and water. Seasonings are optional, but some herbal action makes this bread an even better match for soup. I particularly like some coarse-grained salt, oregano, and basil.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 packet). Next, add 1 1/2 cups of warm water and mix until the dough is "shaggy." That's a technical term, believe it or not. The dough surface will be rough and very, very sticky.
It's rising time. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and leave it alone someplace warm for 4 hours.
Four hours later, it will look something like the above. Behold, the power of yeast!
Of course, you can let the dough rest considerably longer if you like. Consider four hours a hard minimum, though.
Here's the only slightly tricky aspect to this bread. When it's time to bake, you need to get the dough from bowl to pan. Here's how to do it in a way that results in a crusty bread with a fluffy, soft center.
First, spread about a tablespoon of olive oil over a baking sheet. Dump the dough out of the bowl and onto the oiled baking sheet.
Now give that dough one thorough smooshing. "Smooshing," unlike "shaggy," is not yet a technical term - but it probably should be.
Your smooshed dough should be somewhat flattened-out like so.
Now gather up the dough from the edges and fold in and upward, so that the oiled surface is all on the outside, and the un-oiled surface is all on the inside of a sort of packet.
Place dough in a loaf pan, smooth side down. Cover again and let rise 30 minutes before baking. It's very, very important to let it rise again, otherwise you'll end up with very sad bread.
Now is also the time to add any seasonings you want to bake into the bread. Sprinkle them directly on top of the loaf before you let it rise the second time. I add some extra salt every time at this point, and sometimes various other herbs (Pictures for this post will be un-herbed so that the appearance of the dough and finished product itself is easier to see).
While things are rising, become a Dough-Monster and attack your camera-wielding fiancee. After that, pre-heat your oven to 450.
30 minutes later, the dough will have risen slightly, and will be ready to bake! Cover the loaf pan and bake 25 minutes at 450 degrees. If you don't have a cover for your pan, you can just put a baking sheet or appropriately-sized pan lid on top. You just need something to keep the top of the bread from burning before the rest is done.
Uncover the bread after 25 minutes and bake another 3-5 minutes to finish off the top crust - this makes it extra crusty and crispy and wonderful.
Voila, bread! Cool the loaf on a wire rack for a few minutes before slicing. You can also sprinkle additional herbs, salt, or other seasonings on top of the loaf at this point for a bit of extra color and flavor.
Cut into nice, thick slices serve while still warm if at all possible. Eat with or without butter, dunked in soup, or make some fantastic grilled cheese. The possibilities are endless!
Recipe: No-Knead Bread
Prep Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes (10 minutes hands-on) | Cook Time: 30 minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 8-12 thick slices.
- 3 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 2 1/4 tsp. Yeast.
- 1 tsp. Salt.
- 1 1/2 cups warm Water.
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- Optional: Additional salt and herbs to taste.
- Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add warm water and mix until dough is "shaggy."
- Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm location at least 4 hours.
- Spread olive oil on a baking sheet. Empty dough from mixing bowl onto baking sheet and flatten slightly. Pick up dough from edges to form a "packet" with oiled side out. Place in loaf pan, smooth side down.
- Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Let dough rise a second time, approx. 30 minutes. Add additional salt and herbs to top of dough if desired.
- Bake covered in loaf pan 25 minutes at 450 degrees. Uncover and bake an additional 2-5 minutes until surface is cracked and golden-brown.
- Cool on a wire rack 3-5 minutes before slicing.
- Serve warm.