Introduction: Bread - Honest, Real, Wholesome
“Only bread and the newspaper we must have, whatever else we [may] do without." So said Oliver Wendell Holmes in the September 1861 Atlantic Monthly.
Today the newspaper has been replaced with the insistent 'ding' of our electronic devices. Bread however is still essential.
Now it is a time when plastic news invades our every electronic moment and spurious ingredients clog the wrappers of the loaves strung 30 feet and more along the grocery aisle.
The news I can turn off at least, but bread? Can I do without?
I say emphatically no.
Bread, there must still be bread. Bread with pronounceable ingredients. Bread with an artisan baker’s crumb and a epicurean connoisseur’s tooth and a small boy’s jam smeared smiling face as the morning’s soldiers are demolished.
This recipe is just such bread. Wholesome and luscious fresh from the oven. Delicious and nutritious as the first and last flavors in a noonday sandwich. Crisp and nuttily crackling when toasted and slathered with butter.
Step 1: The Ingredients for a Single Loaf
The ingredients are simple, timeless and ageless:
1 and 1/4 cup (285 grams) WATER, warm but not hot
3 cups (360 grams) BREAD FLOUR
1 cup (Approx 170 grams) yesterdays COOKED RICE (white, brown, black or red)
Rice can vary widely in moisture content - I try to use day old rice because excess moisture has been more completely absorbed.
2 and 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) ACTIVE DRY YEAST (one packet)
1 tablespoon (12.5 grams) SUGAR (I am using Agave Nectar (14 grams) - Honey (21 grams) works as well)
2 teaspoons (37 grams) of SALT - Sea Salt, Kosher Salt or even Himalayan Pink Salt are great
[2 tablespoons of HERBES de PROVENCE make this a delightful herbed bread]
Professional and Artisan Bakers sometimes obsess on converting standard measurements to weights. For the average home baker using regular cups, teaspoons and tablespoons results in wonderfully edible breads.
There is a great conversion chart for an amazing number of bread ingredients from King Arthur Flour at Ingredient weight chart
Step 2: The Process Is Direct and Satisfyingly Visceral
Using a stand mixer with a dough hook mix it all together.
Don’t have a stand mixer? Plop it all in a large mixing bowl and work it with a wooden spoon.
Knead it for 15 minutes in the mixer or for as long as your arms can take it by hand. The lighter colors of rice will disappear during the kneading, the darker colors will be spread throughout.
Be sure to hold your stand mixer, or watch it closely. They make a huge thump when they walk off the counter and crash to the floor. (Don't ask me how I know this.)
Step 3: Proofing
Spray a proofing bowl with cooking spray and transfer the dough from the mixing bowl. Spray the top or the dough with cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest about an hour. [It will double or more in size.]
Our kitchen provides a good countertop environment when a kitchen towel is used as a blanket.
Step 4: Forming the Loaf and Baking
Once the dough has doubled in size it's time to form the loaf. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. Punch down the dough and transfer to the loaf pan and cover to rise again (about 30 minutes, an hour won’t hurt)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 Celsius)
Gently remove the cover.
Slash the top with a very sharp knife (or don’t if the very thought terrifies you.)
Bake for about 25 minutes
Step 5: Cool and Enjoy
The top should be beautifully golden brown, the loaf should ring hollow when thumped with a wooden spoon and the pesky instant read thermometer should be around 190 degrees when poked to the middle.
Tip the bread out of the baking pan onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool at least five minutes, remember patience is a virtue. Slice your piece with a bread knife being careful not to squeeze the loaf. Slather with butter (another virtue surely) and taste the lusciousness you have created. [Many will tell you to wait 30 minutes, never happens at my house.]
This loaf will keep for several days in a bread box, large plastic bag or container. Refrigeration will prolong it another few days. Personally I don't think it will last that long, it seems to magically disappear pretty much the same day it is made.
You may substitute any number of things for the rice bringing all new taste dimensions. I have had success with rolled oats, left over angel hair pasta, leftover Chinese fried rice (be sure to refrigerate), steamed cauliflower, and soaked but not seasoned ramen noodles. I can image curry take away (again be sure and refrigerate), crushed Oreo cookies, even BBQ flavor potato chips. Don't be timid, it's only flour and water and if it doesn't taste good slice it, bake it again to dry it out and crush it for the birds. They will love you if no one else does.