The smell of warm bread always brings back a flood of memories from my childhood. Growing up, it seemed like something bread related was always going down. Either bread was being made, bread was rising or bread was in the oven. Ginger and I were often relegated to tiptoeing around the house (or the back yard) instead of our usual hectic antics, so that we didn’t cause the bread to fall. I even recall a time or two when my mom rushed to the flour bag and dredged her hands before answering the door so that she wouldn’t have to engage with the salesman who had come calling.
Over the holidays we went to visit a friend who had her mother visiting from out of town. When we arrived her mother was baking bread, and over the course of our visit she somehow managed to whip up a couple of loaves of very lovely smelling bread. She told me that she hadn’t purchased a loaf of bread in over 40 years! “Why have I not been baking bread at home?” I asked myself. Thanks to my mother and the years of taking part in a 6 am highschool bread baking program. I have no excuse, I used to bake bread and I like it!
After my visit I headed home and straight for my archives and began to search for my bread recipe. Back in the day when I used to bake more often I had a bread recipe that I really liked, it was simple and tasty. But as luck would have it, time and a few moves have left me recipe-less. I had to start fresh. I wanted a recipe that had a simple ingredient list, was easy to put together and most importantly, wouldn’t take the whole weekend to make. I started looking for a recipe that featured beer. One trick that I have learned along the way is that if you want a fairly quick loaf of bread, that somewhat resembles an artisan loaf, you need to add beer to your dough.
No-Knead Beer Bread (make 2 rounds)
1 1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup warm water (about 100F)
12 oz bottled beer at room temperature
4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
cornmeal (for sprinkling on baking sheet)
For the sponge:
In a medium bowl use a wooden spoon to mix together yeast, flour and warm water. Be careful not to use too hot of water or the heat will kill the yeast. Once the ingredients are mixed together cover the bowl with a moist kitchen towel and set in a warm spot to rise for 30 minutes. I don’t have a warm place at home so I pre-heat my oven to about 75F and let the sponge rise there.
For the bread:
After 30 minutes you should have a nice bubbling bowl of sponge. Add the beer to the sponge and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the flour and salt and mix the dough until all the flour is incorporated. You should be left with a wet dough. Once again cover the bowl and return it to a warm spot to rise for 2 hours.
Once the dough has risen, use a rubber spatula to remove the dough from the sides of the bowl and turn the dough out onto a clean, well floured work surface. For more ease working with the wet dough, generously sprinkle the top of the dough with more flour and dredge your hands with flour before beginning to shape the dough. Divide the dough in half and roughly shape into two rough loaves. Sprinkle cornmeal onto a baking sheet and transfer loaves onto the sheet. Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with flour, cover with a dry towel and return to a warm spot to proof for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 425F. Once the loaves have fully risen use a very sharp knife to cut a cross into the tops of the loaves. I have found that you usually need to go over the cuts a second time to make them about 3/4″ to 1″ deep. Place the bread in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. You can tell that the bread is finished baking when it develops a lovely golden crust and makes a nice hollow sound when you flick it with your fingers. Allow the bread to cool before cutting into it… haha who am I kidding. Have atter.