Our family has two houses. Not in an ostentatious way to be sure just a little (!) condo in the city and a home better suited to our needs in the wilderness. We split our time pretty evenly between the two these days coming into the city for lessons and appointments and hiding in the woods the rest of the time. While this is lovely for my spirit and lends the gift of space and time to most of our days the trade off is two long night time drives a week as we go first back then forth and two slightly discombobulated mornings as this Momma tries to remember if this is the house with the toilet paper or if little one’s library books made it into the bags. On these mornings I am grateful for my bread making practice and especially for the five minutes I took the last time we were wherever we are to set up dough in the fridge for just this moment.
I first played with the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes technique a couple of years ago but we were two and a half mouths smaller then and not as conscious of where all that grocery money was going. These days with five plus hungry bread lovers in the house, bread making has become a necessity. Over the last couple of months I have learned that in the city two doughs are sufficient, one more whole wheat than not and one that rotates a little depending on our plans for the week. In the woods we have settled on one mostly whole wheat and one we like to call sweet bread. This is a rough recipe, ever changing that calls for a good amount of sweetener (brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, whatever is on hand) and either some old fashioned oats or someone’s old cooked steel cut oats. It is this bread I turn to on messy mornings. Sweet bread with anything you’d like on it has become a staple transition day breakfast in the woods and it is perfect with a cup of tea hot from the wood stove. The best part, since neither oats nor sugar will much affect your bread making this is a no measuring required recipe but if it must be written out here it is, exactly how I make it.
Sweet BreadEnough flour to make 2-3 loaves for your family – we go with about 8 cups of whole wheat/white wheat mixture yeast, 2 tablespoons or more salt, 1 good tablespoon sweetener, as much or as little as you want but it is called sweet bread – I’d add about a 1/4 to a 1/2 cup to this depending on the sweetener I’m using oats, up to 2 cups should be good of any kind although steel cut oats must be cooked to avoid lots of crunchy bits a little fat (coconut oil melted, soft butter…), 4 tablespoons or so water to bring it all together – milk would also work but think about how long you’re looking to keep the dough and when you bought the milk 😉 Like the book says, mix the ingredients together to form a wet dough and leave it out for a couple of hours (up to overnight if you live in a draughty house in the woods during a Canadian winter like me) then put it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake. Forty minutes before baking take your dough out and pull off enough for a loaf, shape it and set it to rest on a baking sheet. After twenty minutes preheat your oven to 440 degrees Fahrenheit and slip into it a dutch oven or cast iron pot, no lid required*. After twenty more minutes slash your loaf deeply and remove the dutch oven from the hot oven, invert it over your dough and put the whole thing in to the oven to bake. After ~30 minutes remove the dutch oven cover and continue to bake for 8 to ten minutes then remove the bread to cool. Slice and eat with jams and jellies and marmalades, nut butters and milky tea. *This novel dutch oven technique was introduced to me by Erik of Root Simple who like me had a little difficulty transferring dough into a hot dutch oven when making Jim Lahey’s infamous no-knead bread.