Since we’ve been in lockdown for almost 2 months now, I’ve jumped the trend of baking my way through the coronavirus pandemic. If you’ve been consuming more social media lately, you’ve been bombarded by videos and photos of people trapped in their kitchens testing recipe after recipe, trading dumbbells with ladles and jogging with chopping.
One of the most successful cooking trends I’ve seen is bread making. A process as old as time, it’s been intimidating for most of us, myself included. Mixing just the most basic ingredients have put so much fear in me, that I would’ve baked from scratch the most difficult French pastries, than making bread.
Since time is all we have, I have decided to face my fears and start baking. I had to first stock up on flour. I really couldn’t find any for weeks, but my sister sent me some all the way from Romania. With a little bit of dried yeast I found in my pantry, pre Covid, I started browsing for recipes.
It took a while, as most of them talked about making your own starter, which looks more intimidating than anything else. Until a viral video popped up on my Facebook page. It was a celebrity chef from Romania, sharing a simple bread recipe that only requires 1 gram of yeast. Since there is a shortage on the market, seemed like the perfect idea. The only catch? It takes more than 14 hours until you can actually eat the bread. But, like I mentioned before, I got time on my hands, so it didn’t hurt to at least try this recipe.
To be honest, I haven’t had a better bread in my life. Except for when I was in France, or eating at fancy restaurants. The flavour, the crust, the pockets of air, that by the way, are caused by CO2 gas produced by yeast digesting the carbohydrates in the flour. According to the show Cooked – Air episode, these gas bubbles create that addiction to bread. I really recommend this episode if you want to learn more about bread.
All the wait was well worth it. This recipe was a success in my household, husband and child had their fair share of bread with butter asking for seconds. Now I can start making bread starter for 7 days and bake myself some sourdough. The pandemic is going nowhere and I don’t need my waistline anymore.
- Mix all the ingredients apart from the olive oil, in a bowl until all the flour is incorporated. The dough is going to be sticky, but don't add any more flour.
- Get a box with a lid ready. I have a 10l one that's really handy. The dough is going to rise a lot, so you need a big recipient (a 5l will do). If you don't have one, get a big bowl. Put some olive oil at the bottom of the recipient, and then the dough. Cover with a lid or cling film.
- Let it prove in a warm environment. I usually turn on the radiator and place the bowl on a chair next to it.
- After 25 minutes start folding the dough in the bowl (don't take it out). Take one corner and stretch it up, then fold it on top of the dough. Do the same with the rest of the corners. Let it prove again for 25 min.
- Repeat the same process 4 times in total. In the end let it prove at room temperature for about 12 hours. I usually leave it on the kitchen counter with a lid on top. Like I said, if you don't have a big recipient, divide the recipe in two and let it prove in two separate bowls covered with cling film. You can also put a kitchen towel on top of the cling film to make the environment a little bit warmer.
- Dust some flour on a clean surface and carefully pour the dough on top. Sprinkle some flour on the dough and divide it in two.
- To shape the breads you have to lift one corner on top of the dough, followed by the rest of the corners, and repeating the process again. Basically, you lift the corners 8 times for each bread until the end results is a round shape.
- Let it prove in a flour dusted prove basket for 50 minutes. If you don't have a basket, any bowl will do as long as it's dusted. Cover it with a kitchen towel.
- In the meantime, heat the oven to 250 degrees on an electric oven. I usually use the fan function. In the oven, middle shelf, heat a cast iron casserole/a pyrex dish with a lid or any tall oven recipient you use that withstands this kinda temperature.
- After the 50 minutes, take the dough from the bowl and place in the hot casserole, score it, cover with the lid and leave in the oven for 30 minutes. After this time take the lid off and leave for 5 to 10 minutes in the oven, until the bread is golden and ready.
- Leave the bread on a cooling rack until ready to be served. To store, I usually cover it with a kitchen towel so it won't dry.