A basic approach to making bread. So simple, you will want a variation of this basic recipe with every meal, which works as yummy pizza too!
Machine? Nope! YOUR hands!!
Mediterranean Food would be an empty existence without the presence of BREAD. As quoted by a DC restaurant - Bread & Salt:
"Bread and salt are more than foods; they are sustenance, as old as civilization itself. In bread life is sustained; in salt it is preserved. People have recognized this since ancient times..."
You can do this... You CAN do this! Let's get started.
Dry: 3-4 cups all purpose flour. (later we will play with different flours)
Wet: 1 3/4 cup warm water (never warmer than 115 degrees, test on wrist)
Life/Yeast: 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, 2 teaspoons sugar
Flavor: 1 tablespoon salt, (optional, 2 teaspoons Mahleb - a cherry kernel powder, nutty and yet fruity in flavor)
Fat: 2 Tablespoons of fat, (olive oil, grated cheese, soft butter, whole milk... just a little fat)
Glaze: 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon cream, milk, or water.
Sprinkles: Course sea salt, (sesame seeds, poppy seeds, oatmeal etc. optional)
In a 3-4 quart size bowl, pour warm water, and sprinkle life/yeast and sugar on top. Cover with a towel, and let rest 10 minutes. It will form a foam:
Add flavor, fat, and one cup flour. Stir.
Continue to add one cup of flour at a time and stir.
When dough begins to come together and be too stiff to stir with a spoon, time to get your hands dirty! Wipe off spoon, sprinkle more flour on top and begin to press with the heal of your hand. You will develop a rhythm that is something like this: Sprinkle, press, reach under, turn over, press. Continue like this until dough comes together and is no longer sticky.
When your dough looks something like this, transfer it to an oiled bowl of equal size (or simple wash the bowl you are using to mix, and oil it). Cover (with plastic, a towel, or lid) and place in a warm, draft free place. Warm, not hot or you will kill the yeast. Let dough rise for about 1 1/2 hours until at least double in size.
When dough has double in size, or more... Punch down in the center to release air, and then shape into desired shape: loaf, long baguette, round, pita, pizza.
Mix glaze and baste/paint on top of loaf. This makes for a golden color and adds a lovely crunch.
Sprinkle coarse sea salt on top. As you become confident, you will want to add other toppings such as sesame seeds, poppy seeds, oatmeal flakes, and eventually when we cover a sweeter dough, you will want to sprinkle raw sugar! But for now... salt.
Let the dough rest while your over preheats: 350 for small loaves, 400 for one large. Pop into preheated oven and bake 18-22 minutes until crust is golden brown.
YUM! You did it!!!!