My skin is itchy, I am feeling constantly dehydrated & hot, and the existence of clothing is getting irritating. Maybe cause it’s 100 degree weather. Maybe cause my thoughts are multiplying like bunnies. Weird.
That’s why I bake. Not the only reason; others are to make people happy, create and produce something beautiful, and because I have a weakness for bread/delish carbs.
If you need a bit of assurance on your journey, make some yeasty bread. Simple or complex, it will restore and grow something in you. Maybe it’s the will to move forward, maybe the confidence to decide something for yourself. Maybe you need to know it’s ok to simply be. Mix and knead your bread, finishing the kneading with your hands, because you need to feel the dough and know the dough with your fingertips. Its brilliant elasticity, the smell of yeast that promises a good rise. The kneading, the waiting, the punching down the dough post rise-you know, when it’s all spongy and almost “poofs” when you punch it, leaving you slightly smiling and secretly satisfied (awesome alliteration alert). All of that being will surely bring you back a little bit and cause you to breathe a bit deeper, with more intentionality than you had the will to muster before.
Rustic White Bread
2 cups warm tap water, about 110 degrees
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
5 1/4 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup flour for dusting the loaves
Cornmeal for the pans
2 small cookie sheets or a large (at least 11×17-inch) jelly roll pan
1. To make the dough, in a 3-quart mixing bowl place water and sprinkle yeast on surface, allowing it to stand for two minutes before whisking. Add the smaller amount of flour and salt stiffing with a rubber spatula until it forms a ball. Knead the dough by hand for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, adding more flour if dough is too soft.
2. To mix the dough in the food processor, place the smaller amount of flour and salt in work bowl fitted with metal blade, adding water and yeast. Pulse repeatedly until dough forms a ball (if dough will not form a ball, add remaining flour a tablespoon at a time, and pulse until ball forms. Let dough rest 5 minutes, then let machine run continuously for 20 seconds.
3. To mix dough in a heavy-duty mixer, place smaller amount of flour and salt in bowl of mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add water and yeast and mix on low speed to form a smooth, elastic and slightly sticky dough, about 5 minutes. Incorporate the remaining flour a tablespoon at time if the dough is too soft.
4. Place dough in an oiled bowl (you may need to use a scraper) and turn dough over so top is oiled. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise at room temperature until doubled. If you wish to interrupt the process, let the dough begin to rise, then punch it down, cover it tightly and refrigerate. When you are ready to proceed, bring back to room temperature until it begins rising again.
5. To shape loaves, scrape risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and press it to deflate it. Divide dough in half and shape one piece at a time. Press dough into a square, then roll it up tightly. Rotate cylinder of dough 90 degrees and roll up again from short end. Arrange dough seam side down, cover with plastic or a towel and let it rest of 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining piece of dough.
6. Dust pan with cornmeal. Roll each piece of dough under palms of your hands to elongate it. Work from middle of loaf outward, pointing the ends slightly. Place loaves seam side down on cookie sheets and dust each loaf heavily with flour, using about 1/3 cup in all. Cover with plastic or a towel and allow to rise until doubled.
7. About 30 minutes before you intend to bake the loaves, preheat oven to 500 degrees and set racks at the middle and lowest levels. Set a pan on the lowest rack to absorb some of the excess bottom heat and keep the bottom of the loaves from burning.
8. Holding a razor blade or the point of a very sharp knife at a 30-degree angle to the top of each loaf, make 3 to 4 diagonal slashes in each loaf. Immediately place loaves in oven and lower temperature 450 degrees.
9. After loaves have baked for 20 minutes and are completely risen, lower temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking about 20 to 30 minutes longer, until bread reaches an internal temperature of about 220 degrees. Remove loaves from oven and cool on a rack.
Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen,