Recipes

Everybody’s Favorite Peasant Bread

Who doesn’t love a good loaf of fresh-baked homemade bread?

This first recipe comes from The Hayday Country Market Cookbook, which we picked up at a Cracker Barrel years ago. It’s very much a “farm stand” cookbook, with recipes heavily focused on produce. The recipes also seem to lean just slightly more complicated than I like to tackle everyday, but don’t let that scare you away. There’s a recipe for cranberry-orange muffins I make every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, they are that good! Also several extremely tasty soup recipes.

And to go along with a lovely soup, one of the recipes that I thought was intriguing – but I never made it until recently! – was Everybody’s Favorite Peasant Bread. I first made it one day last fall when we had a guest; I know, a cardinal rule of hosting broken: never serve something you’ve never made before to company. But our kind of company is so very rarely the kind where you have to scour the house and prepare a picture-perfect meal. In this case, I had the time to do it and I’m a fairly confident bread-maker.

It was delicious! It’s an English-muffin style loaf, chewy from the baking soda with a light, spongy crumb. Like all yeast breads, it takes time to prepare, with all the kneedings and risings and punchings-down. The actual hands-on time isn’t all that bad, though.

Serve one loaf that day, and freeze the other for another! It freezes well.

Everybody’s Favorite Peasant Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups hot water (105-115 degrees)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) yeast
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup cool water
  • 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Directions

  1. Combine hot water, sugar, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir quickly to dissolve yeast and sugar; let stand until the mixture is nice and bubbly, about 5 minutes.
  2. Dissolve baking soda in cool water in a small bowl. Add to yeast mixture.
  3. Over a period of 10-15 minutes (I didn’t take this long – too impatient!) gradually add 5 cups flour and salt using a large wooden spoon or the paddle attachment on a mixer set on low speed. The mixture will form an elastic dough that just begins to ball up and pull away from the sides of the bowl in ribbons. Work in enough of the remaining flour with your hands to form a firm but sticky dough that comes together in a ball. It should not be as firm as traditional bread dough and will be too sticky to knead in the traditional manner. (Use traditional one more time in that sentence!) Cover bowl loosely with a clean kitchen towel and set it aside to rest at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (I approved of being able to leave it to rise in the mixer bowl – one less dish to wash!)
  4. Butter two loaf pans. (I mean, I just spritzed them with some Pam.)
  5. Using buttered hands (or hands spritzed with Pam) turn the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Shape the halves  and tuck them inside the prepared pans. Set the loaves aside, uncovered, in a warm, draft-free corner of the kitchen until they have doubled in size and risen about 1 inch above the sides of the pans, about 2 hours. (Longer is fine.)
  6. Preheat oven to 400. (And toss the butter in the microwave to melt.)
  7. Brush the tops of the loaves with the melted butter, arrange the pans on a baking sheet (I didn’t do this), and bake until crisp and nicely browned on top, 30 minutes. To test doneness, tap the bottom of a loaf. If it sounds hollow, the bread is done. Turn them out of the pans to cool on a wire rack. The lightly crisp crust will soften as the loaves cool.

Mmm, fresh-baked bread. It slices way easier if you wait a few minutes to cut. It keeps great for a few days in a plastic container on the counter. After the first day, the bread is a little drier, but it’s fine for toast.

Breakfast menu: watermelon, toasted bread, and egg with basil.

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