Dear Friends and Lurking Strangers of the Internet,
Do you ever try to trick people into thinking you're cooler than you really are? That you have it all together and never find the need to google words in hopes that you'll learn how to spell them correctly?
Yeah, me neither.
BUT. If you are looking to impress the pants off someone, here's how I would do it:
Carbohydrates. Everyone who's anyone knows that carbs are the window to the soul. I had a coworker at my previous job that made the most amazing Serbian bread, called Pogacha. It was like the heavens opened up and dropped down this giant, braided loaf of happiness - except I know that's not how it's made because my coworker used to have to get up at like 5 AM to bake it. It was truly a crowd pleaser and she held the loyalty and respect from everyone in the office. She was the Bread Queen. I know you're thinking, "Meg, she was probably loved so much because she was just a really good person and was amazing at her job." Well obviously yes, but also no. That carb-y goodness made her an office hero. It got to the point where office-wide emails labeled "URGENT" would go out to say that the Pogacha was here and to get your butter knives ready (I would not be surprised if someone kept butter in the fridge just for her bread - under lock and key, of course).
I wanted to be an office hero someday. Or at least make bread without burning my house down. I realized that Pogacha was probably setting the bar a little high for my first bread making experience, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could bake bread for family and friends - excluding the Houston Fire Department.
So I found a simple recipe for "Artisan Bread" that had the words "EASY" and "FAIL-PROOF" in the title. Excellent. Any title with the words "artisan" in it are my go-to's. Because if it comes out slightly less than perfect, you can just say "Oh, its an artisan recipe. Its like abstract art. You wouldn't understand". And then you can walk away, leaving your guest feeling slightly better about your cooking and slightly worse about their knowledge of abstract art.
I've made this recipe several times (without a fire extinguisher!) and I have become a slightly lesser-version of my coworker amongst my family and friends - everywhere I bring this little loaf of love, I have earned the respect and awe from my peers. People actually cry when I don't give them this recipe. It's like crack (I'm guessing, since I've never tried crack) - I get bribes, phone calls in the middle of the night, flowers sent to my doorstep - all over this stupid recipe. Well today is your lucky day, ladies. I'm sharing my secret to the success to my whole life right here. But you can keep the flowers and bribe money coming.
There was a slight possibility that I would be able to meet my friend's newborn this week and I made a couple of loaves to bring for them in conjunction with a take-and-bake meal, just in case. I had to one-up her someway, right? "Oh you made a baby? Cute. Well I made artisan bread." So I thought there was no better time to give a step-by-step guide to making this bad boy (spoiler alert: there are only like, 4 steps) and slap it up on the internet for you to steal. Never say that I am incapable of love.
EASY, FAIL-PROOF, ARTISAN BREAD
First things, first: you need to buy crazy-expensive cookware for this recipe. Of course, you don't need to, but if you're looking for an excuse to buy Le Cresuet, this recipe is your new best friend. Of course, you can always find an oven-proof dutch oven with a lid at like IKEA or something, but its not as chic and your bread won't taste nearly as expensive.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2-3 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons of any sort of mix-ins you'd like (spices, herbs, fruit (gross?), nuts, etc.)
- In a bowl, stir together the flour, salt and yeast. Add the water in using a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a shaggy dough. Do not over-work the dough - this is a no-knead recipe, so you don't have to get those manicured claws dirty!
- Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours, until the dough is nice and bubbly, like champagne (the good stuff).
- Note: I have left it at room temperature for as little as 4 hours, because I like to live dangerously, and it has turned out fine. Don't think that you can't bring the bread for a dinner party if you don't have 8 hours.... unless this is an excuse to ask your boyfriend to go and pick something up from the grocery store. In which case, no, you really don't have time to make this (wink).
- After dough is ready, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place your ridiculously expensive Le Cresuet dutch oven, uncovered, into the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
- While your $300 ceramic pot preheats, turn the dough onto a well-floured surface. With floured hands, form the dough into a ball.
- After the 30 minutes are up, carefully remove the dutch oven and place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the dish - even if its enamel-coated, IT WILL STICK and then your bread will be ruined, RUINED. Plop the ball of dough into the parchment-blanketed dutch oven, and place the lid on top
- Another note: remember that this is artisan bread, so if the dough isn't a perfect ball, you're only a little bit of a failure.
- Bake for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes are up, remove the cover and bake for about 5-7 minutes uncovered to brown the top.
- Remove from oven, and carefully take the bread out of the ceramic pot. Serve on fancy plate with your fancy bread knife and fancy garlic-rosemary butter.
- Prepare to impress your guests and become their idol. Perhaps take out a PO box for your bribe money and/or hate mail because the bread is so good.
This time, I made one regular loaf and one roasted garlic/rosemary loaf. The garlic-rosemary is on point! - but not recommended for dates or close spaces, unless you're trying to un-impress people with your breath. And don't worry, I didn't send the cut loaf and half-eaten piece of bread to the new mama. That's also a good way to un-impress people.