As you’ve probably surmised by now, I love carbs. Particularly bread. One of the great tragedies of life is the fact that simple carbohydrates aren’t that great for your body. There’s a little part of my brain that chastises the rest of my psyche every time I chow down on a slice of french bread with butter or bruschetta.
But ya know what? Life’s too short to deny myself that kind of happiness. Food-nirvana as I like to call it. So I’m going to eat the damn carbs.
Enter ‘Peasant Bread”. Whenever I get the hankering for some good old fashioned French bread but I don’t have the energy/willpower to get up off my couch and go to the store, I bust out this recipe. Peasant bread is not quite the same as French bread but the difference isn’t really that noticeable. The texture of Peasant Bread is more dense and chewy, but the taste is still exactly what I’m looking for when I need a carb-fix. It’s ridiculously simple and easy to make, and quite frankly, that makes this bread all the more deadly to have around the house. I have to restrain myself from making it sometimes. Seriously.
Besides the simple ingredients, another great thing about this bread recipe is that you don’t need any fancy equipment to make it. I’ve used my stand-mixer with my dough-hook attachment to knead the dough a few times, but it really doesn’t make that much of a difference. I actually prefer to knead the dough by hand anyway – it makes me feel like I’m a kid playing with playdough.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 packet of active dry yeast (it’s sold at every major grocery store in the baking aisle. It’s also very cheap!)
2 cups of warm (not hot) water
4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of salt.
Here’s what you’ll do:
Step 1. Fire up your oven and set it at 350 degrees.
Step 2. In a small bowl, gently sprinkle the packet of yeast into one cup of warm water. It’ll form a layer that floats on top – that’s what you want. This allows the yeast to activate or “bloom” which is what you need for your bread to rise.
Step 3. In a large mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients.
Step 4. Add the other cup of warm water (not the yeast mixture) to your dry ingredients and stir it all together until it’s just combined.
Step 5. Now add in the other cup of water with the yeast (the yeast should have started foaming by now and will be very fragrant. It smells like beer!)
Step 6. Stir all this together until a loose dough is formed.
Step 7. Once the dough is a cohesive, albeit loose, mass, scoop it up and plop it onto a floured cutting board or other flat surface. Knead the dough for no more than 5 minutes. Too much kneading will overwork the dough and negatively affect the texture once it’s baked. You just want to knead it until the dough has a smooth surface with no sticky spots.
Step 8. Take your kneaded dough and place it into a large bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean dish-towel and let it rest for 20-30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Step 9. Once the dough has risen, place it in either a pre-greased loaf tin or shape your dough into a hill/mound shape on a flat baking sheet. Score the top of your loaf with a knife (this allows steam to escape while it’s baking!) This is also an opportunity to get a bit creative. Make whatever pattern you’d like!
Step 10. Sprinkle the top of your dough with a bit of flour and bake! I like to set my kitchen timer for 20 minutes and then once that time has elapsed, I just keep checking the bread (through the oven window! Don’t open the oven!) until the top is nice and golden brown.
Step 11. Spread that delicious, homemade french bread of yours with butter, jam, peanut butter, nutella, bruschetta, or whatever else suits your palate. Or just eat it plain. That’s what I do. But don’t tell anyone I said that.
Tip! – During the mixing stage (prior to kneading) you can customize your loaves by adding whatever herbs/spices you’d like! I love to add dried herbs like rosemary, oregano & thyme to mine, but you can be as creative as you’d like!
*Cover photo courtesy of finecooking.com