Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bread Bound

Homeward Bound by Simon & Garfunkel
Have you ever read Nick Hornby's High Fidelity?  It's a fantastic read (think: beach book) about a man who owns a London record store (you know, back in the day when records were a matter of integrity, not style) and tries to figure out love and life.  In one of my favorite sections of the novel, he writes, "Sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time that it takes you forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time."  That's what Simon & Garfunkel's Homeward Bound is for me.  It reminds me of deep-buried love for home at the same  time that it makes me want to take off and conquer the world.  It is my roots clinging almost desperately to the stable earth, all the while my leaves reaching just as hungrily for the sun.  Is there a better food representation of this feeling than homemade bread?  Filling you with nourishment so you have energy and vitality you need to take on everything else?

Hello, all!  I'm here guest posting for my mama while she's off being amazing and taking care of my sister for a bit.  I'm the daughter written about here and here.

I love making bread.  It makes me feel like I'm connecting with centuries of women who came before me, participating in some ancient and sacred ritual.  I can't make bread without waxing nostalgic, thinking about my mom and how very many loaves of bread she has made for me over the years, etc.  Nothing quite says "You are loved" like a warm piece of freshly baked bread.

When I first attempted making my own bread, I was a bit of a failure.  It just never turned out the way I remembered homemade bread tasting.  So then one year my mom bought me a bread machine - which ended up being just as confusing as a recipe, and which didn't really produce a loaf of bread any better than any of my faltering attempts.  So after a few months of the bread machine, I decided to really buckle down and figure out this bread-making business.  Several years later now, I make some pretty excellent bread (the Kitchen-Aid mixer doing the kneading for me doesn't hurt, either...)

Usually, when I make my own bread, I opt for some kind of dense wheat variety; slathered with butter and honey, you just can't go wrong.  But I found a version of this recipe on Pinterest a few months ago, and when it claimed to be "5 Minutes Artisan Bread!"  I thought for sure it was going to turn out to be yet another Pinterest flop (it was a dark period of my cooking life, when I first started using Pinterest.)  But I tried it and have had so much fun playing around with it.  The recipe I found was for a basic crusty, rustic bread - and you can certainly make it without all the bells and whistles; but I recommend adding herbs and cheese; it just takes this bread to a whole new level.  And you'll be completely "wowed" by how quickly and easily this comes together.  It reminds me how I long to be (you guess it!) homeward bound, surrounded by the things and people I love.

This recipe begs for experimentation.  Not only are there endless variations of herb-cheese combinations, but there are so many great things to do with the final product.  Super crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, it is ideal for dipping in olive oil/balsamic vinegar, as well as for sopping up the leftover sauce/gravy/whatever from your main dish.  Not to mention it would make one killer of a grilled cheese sandwich.  My next experiment is to use it to create a savory french toast.  Let me know what creations you come up with!

*Note: I'm giving you the recipe for the asiago-garlic bread, because it's been my tastiest creation so far.  However, the photos depict a sharp cheddar-Italian herb recipe, because you can better see the distribution of cheese and herbs.  This combo was also very good, but the asiago-garlic will knock your socks off!

Asiago-Garlic Artisan Bread
adapted from Simply So Good
Printable Recipe Card
3 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. salt
1 T. yeast
1 1/2 c. warmish water
1 t. garlic powder
3/4 c. finely grated Asiago cheese

Stir together all ingredients into a large bowl, making sure your warm water is no warmer than 120 degrees F.  Cover your bowl with plastic wrap.  I recommend spraying your plastic wrap with cooking spray in case your dough decides to become really active.  This is a very wet dough and will stick to everything it touches.
Allow to sit/rise for 12-18 hours (I recommend the full 18.)  It will look extremely bubbly.
Bring your oven to 450 degrees; place an enamel-coated dutch oven (such as Le Creuset or Calphalon) and it's lid into the oven to preheat it for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, moderately flour a work surface, and use a spatula to turn the dough out onto the flour.  It will be very loose and wet, but use the flour to help you shape it somewhat into a roundish blob.  Cover it with your sprayed plastic wrap and let it rest while the dutch oven comes to temp.

Carefully remove the dutch oven from your oven.  Without greasing the pot (you're just going to have to trust me on this one), transfer the wet dough into the dutch oven.  (You will initially think I'm nuts for asking you to shape the dough at all.  It will entirely lose its shape during this transfer.  But I have tried not shaping it and it really does make a difference; the "shaped" ones bake up into a more pleasing spherical loaf, while the unshaped ones are also beautiful - just a little more flat.)  It will sizzle and crackle once it hits the dutch oven, and that is wonderful!

Cover the dutch oven and return it to the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the lid, bake for 15 minutes more.  The bottom of the loaf will crust up so nicely it will not stick even a little to the dutch oven.  It will slide right out onto a cooling rack, which is exactly where you should put it to let it cool.  Or, rip off a chunk and go to town.  Enjoy!


  1. Oh My this looks tasty! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Melanie! I love to watch as my daughter spreads her culinary wings! I'll be making this very soon!