I developed this recipe a few months ago, at a time when grocery shopping was much more difficult than it is now, and I was one of many people who turned to the beautiful, satisfying art of home bread baking.
Yet somehow, in the throes of creating and publishing my ebook, the Green Sage Quarantine Cooking Handbook, and my Summer Fruit Club, this recipe slipped through the cracks and never saw its blog debut.
I'm about to right that wrong and give it the moment of glory it deserves.
But I'd also like to point out two things.
If you haven't already purchased the ebook, follow this link to grab your copy.
And please enjoy the bread recipe below... it's become one of my favorites!
Note: I prepare my dough in a bread machine, but if you don't have one, you can still make this!
Bread makers are challenging to find right now, given demand and delayed shipping times, but if you're considering one, at about $100, this breach machine from Williams-Sonoma looks like a good choice to me.
Don't have or want a bread machine? No worries! Instructions are included below on preparing the dough with a stand mixer or by hand instead.
Follow the links in the ingredient list for shopping guidance, if any of these items are new to you or you aren't sure where to buy them.
1. Combine 2 tsp of yeast with 1½ cup of warm water and 2 tsp sweetener (e.g. agave nectar, maple syrup, granular unrefined sugar). The sweetener isn't absolutely necessary, but does help awaken the yeast and get them moving. Stir to combine and set aside until a frothy foam has formed on the surface.
2. While you wait for the yeast to get started, combine the dry ingredients in the bucket of your bread machine, or the bowl of your stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl if you're preparing the dough by hand.
3. Mix all the ingredients together. Then add the wet ingredients to the bowl.
4. If you're using a bread machine, start the "dough" cycle now. On my machine, the dough cycle lasts 1.5 hours, and I suspect it'll be similar on other models. Press start and you can skip ahead to the instructions in step 6.
If you're using a stand mixer, turn it on, allowing the mixer to bring all the ingredients together and knead the dough. Once the dough becomes very smooth and stretchy without tearing, you can stop the mixer.
If you're using human power to bring the dough together, begin mixing the ingredients together with a wooden spoon, and eventually you can begin using your hands to mix, squeeze and knead as necessary. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and stretchy without tearing when you pull it.
No matter how you're mixing the dough, you may need to add up to a half cup of additional water to bring everything together.
5. If you've used a Stand Mixer or Your Own Hands to knead the bread, place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover it with a wet dish cloth, and let it stand in a warm place to rise for at least an hour.
6. This would be a good time to prepare your loaf pan.
7. When the bread machine dough cycle has ended, or the dough has risen in your bowl, it will look puffy, like this:
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.
Knead the dough just a few times, gently, to smooth the surface, and then shape it into an oblong loaf about the length of your prepared loaf pan, and drop it into the pan.
8. Loosely cover the pan with a sheet of plastic wrap or a fresh, wet dish cloth. Don't press the plastic down around the sides of the pan, or it may prevent the bread from rising fully.
Set the dough aside to rise for about 45 minutes. This is a good time to also begin preheating the oven. Set it to 425 degrees F.
Make sure the top rack is in the middle of the oven, and place a second empty baking pan with sides, on the bottom rack of the oven. (We'll pour some water into the empty pan later.)
When the dough has finished rising in the pan, it will look something like this:
9. If you'd like, make a slice lengthwise across the middle of the loaf with a sharp knife, about a half-inch deep. This will help it expand in the oven without cracking. Be very gentle so you don't press the risen loaf down too much. Simply sliding the sharp blade lightly across the top should do the trick.
10. Heat about a cup of water in a kettle or saucepan. Place the loaf of bread on the top rack of the oven, and then pour the hot water into the second empty pan on the bottom rack.
Close the door immediately. This will steam the oven and help brown the bread crust.
11. Bake the bread for 30 minutes. Take it out of the oven when the crust is golden brown.
12. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan so it can cool completely.
13. Slice the bread with your favorite bread knife.
It tastes delicious toasted and smeared with jam or another fruit spread, and makes a wonderful breakfast served with a bowl of fresh fruit.