Simple recipes for delicious home made bread and bagels

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The bread is piping hot and emits a fragrant steam. It has been placed on the counter to cool. The crust is a light, crispy brown. The scents of oregano and garlic fill the room. Slice through the hard crust and the steam spirals up from the rustic loaf, revealing a soft center. Lather a layer of butter on and bask in the delight of fresh, homemade baked bread.

The art of bread baking often seems daunting and difficult, but once the basics are mastered it just takes a little patience and the right ingredients to be baking homemade loafs.

No knead bread is a rustic ciabatta widely popularized in 2006 by New York Time’s columnist, Mark Bittman. The recipe was published in Bittman’s column, The Minimalist, which ran for over thirteen years. The bread was developed by Jim Lahey, the owner of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York.

Ciabatta, an Italian bread, is known for its versatility and distinct flavor. The Italian word ciabatta means slipper in english. It is often used in delis as a sandwich roll. In the most basic recipes only white flour, yeast, salt and water are required. Herbs, garlic, olive oil, and seeds can be added to give the bread more flavor. Some bakers use sourdough starters to make the dough more complex. For the beginning baker the flour and yeast recipe is simplest.

“I like how it’s a mix of art and science. You can follow the recipe to a T, or modify all the variables, like the time and temperature. But, you don’t know a good bread until you know how the dough feels,” says Chris Block, a user of Bittman’s recipe.

Tiffany Ballard, a homemade bread baker agrees with Block. “Remember that baking is where science and art meet, so it’s important to be both precise and follow your instincts.”

Block has been using the recipe for two-and-a-half years. “It’s just a basic formula,” states Block. “I don’t do no knead anymore. But, it got me in to baking bread.”

There are many ways to add flavor to your bread. Block suggests adding walnuts or other nuts in to the dough. “Take your time and use good ingredients. Bread is very simple so it’s important to pick good ingredients to start with, high quality flour and water that tastes good, not too chlorine-y,” says Ballard.

“Flavor in bread develops as yeast ferments so you want to make sure you don’t rush your bread or the texture and flavor will be off,” suggests Ballard. “On the flip side of that, though, is that you don’t want your bread to raise too long or your flavor will be too strong and your bread may fall in on itself. Never add extra yeast to make bread rise faster or you’ll get a bitter bread.”

NO KNEAD BREAD
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 tablespoon kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
1 1/2 cups warm water

Begin by sifting the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and yeast, and stir to distribute them evenly within the flour. Add the water slowly, stirring with a large spoon. You may find that using your hands is easier to get it properly mixed, but a bit sticky.

If you are adding nuts, herbs, or other ingredients, this is the time to do so. Mix in any amount you feel comfortable with. Make sure they are evenly distributed throughout the dough. Try whole garlic cloves and oregano, or chives. Brush on some olive oil for an extra touch of flavor.

After everything is mixed in, cover the mixing bowl with some foil or plastic wrap. Put it in a warm place, preferably away from a draft, and forget about it for at least twelve hours. Up to twenty hours is fine, but keep in mind there is still some work to do.

Sprinkle some flour on a counter or cutting board and dump the dough out. Wet your hands to keep the dough from sticking to them and shape the dough in to a neat ball. Now place in the pan that you intend to cook it in.

The pan should have a lid, or be able to be covered with another pan that can serve as a lid. Nothing with plastic handles should be used, as the bread will be cooked at 450 Fahrenheit.

Now after the dough waits an hour-and-a-half, turn the oven to 450 and slip the pan in. Let cook for around a half hour. Remove the lid and cook another twenty to thirty minutes.

Remove from the oven.

You’ll know it is ready when the top is a crispy golden color. If you have a cooking thermometer you can test the inside to 210 Fahrenheit.

“One of the other big things for bread baking is temperature, often a recipe calls for something to be 70 degrees or 110 degrees…which are both a lot cooler than you think they are, so use a thermometer. Your oven is probably cooler than you think it is, so get an oven thermometer too,” says Ballard.

“Let it cool,” adds Block. “It’s pretty hard to do, but the flavor changes dramatically if you let it cool. It gets much better.”

“Dutch ovens are perfect for no knead. They hold in the steam, and that is necessary to make the crust,” informs Block.

When considering the best pan to use for the bread make sure that it has a lid, or that another pan can be used as a lid. Try a 9 x 9 inch metal baking dish and a pie crust pan for the lid. Be creative, anything that is large enough to hold the dough in and a lid can securely fit over is perfect. Keeping in the steam is essential to forming the crust.

Eric Jones suggests using no knead as a pizza dough. “It’s really easy to roll out, it’s not too yeasty, and it doesn’t bounce back too much,” he says.

Jones’ girlfriend cooks for him a lot and experiments with the bread for various dishes. He says she makes the dough, lets it rise, and then cooks it at a high temp for a few minutes and then adds the toppings. After being topped it is returned to the oven to complete the baking.

“We’ve even used different flours and ratios, we’ve gone with whole wheat and rice flour” he adds. “No knead bread is better than the bread you get at the super market!”

BAGELS
Bagels are another great thing to be able to bake on your own. The key to this process is boiling before baking. Otherwise, it is just a roll with a hole. They can be eaten at breakfast with cream cheese and jam, used for sandwiches, or enjoyed on their own.
4 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1-1/4- 1-1/2 cups of warm water.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. After the mixture becomes uniform, flour your work surface and plop the dough out on it. Take one end of the dough and push it in to the rest of the dough, or knead the dough, until it becomes smooth.

If you like you can add cinnamon, herbs, garlic, raisins, or anything else you would like to be in the dough at this time. Toppings are added later.

Roll the dough out and cut in to eight equal-sized pieces. Roll into little balls and let sit for fifteen minutes.

Turn your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take each of the dough balls and roll them in to small snake-like pieces. Connect the two ends together and do your best to roll these neatly together. Another option is to poke a hole through the middle, making sure to make it wide enough to hold once the dough rises again.

Let the dough sit and rise for another fifteen to twenty minutes and in the mean time get a large pot of bowling water ready.

After the wait your bagels should look a bit puffier. Plop them into the water, making sure they do not overlap. Let them boil one minute each side. If you would like to top them with seeds, dehydrated goods, onions, or anything else now is the time. After removing them from the bowling water place them on a plate covered with your topping. Then move them off to the side, or place in a strainer so they can dry. Follow this for each bagel.

Place them in a lightly greased baking dish and place in the oven. Bake for ten minutes. Pull the tray out, flip them over, and return to the oven for another ten minutes.

Let them cool down before consuming. They are mighty delicious when fresh out of the oven, but make sure to save enough for the week!

Try wrapping the dough around your favorite cheese when forming. Use whole wheat flour for a different taste.

“Homemade bagels are much better than store bought!” says Jones. “They are the best because they are so fresh.”

Making homemade baked goods is delicious and rewarding. Give your friends or family a loaf for a present. To dress it up, cut up an old pillow case or shirt you do not use anymore. Wrap the loaf in it, and tie it neatly with a string. Throw a Sunday brunch party and invite friends to try your tasty breakfast treats. Use the bagels as a roll and make a delicious lunch on it. The possibilities are endless. Experiment, find the balance of the art and science, and taste the delicious texture of your homemade goods.