I am strictly a weekend baker because after a busy day at work the last thing I want is to spend the whole evening in the kitchen. But this week I needed to bake some bread — fast, if I could help it– when I came across this ridiculously simple recipe in the Joy of Cooking that promised a quick and delicious bread. I was intrigued.
This is not one of those no-knead recipes but what saves you a good deal of time is the fact that you can mix all of the ingredients at one go– no need to proof the yeast first– and you don’t need hour-long rises. The bread does need two rises, but they are just about 30-45 minutes each. And in the end you are rewarded with a handsome loaf of bread that smells amazing, has a perfect crust– not too thick nor too chewy– and a soft, delicious crumb. I made the bread part whole-wheat, although you could make this white if you had a mind to.
Here’s the recipe, just in time for you to bake up a storm over the weekend. If you’re a new baker, look through Holy Cow’s archives for a ton of tips on baking bread and particularly this post. I am always urging you on these pages to try baking your own bread because believe me it is one of the most rewarding experiences you will have as a cook, and yet there are so many among us who are absolutely petrified by it.
Fast Whole-Wheat Bread
(Makes about 20 slices)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
2 1/4 tsp (1 package) active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water (not hot– you will kill the yeast)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Place 1 cup of the bread flour, the whole-wheat flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk to mix together.
Add the water and the olive oil and mix. Add more of the bread flour if needed. How much flour you will need will depend on where you live and what the weather’s like. I made this bread on a rainy day in Washington and I needed nearly the whole cup. If you live in a dryer region you might need less.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand or with your dough hook set to low speed. You should now have a smooth, pliable ball of dough that’s not at all sticky.
Place the dough ball in an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat the top with oil.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set aside for 30-45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Remove the risen dough from the bowl and punch it well to deflate all the gases. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a triangle about 10 inches long. Now roll the dough toward yourself and make a cylinder, tucking down the seams and pinching them in so you have a smooth loaf.
Place the dough in a standard loaf pan, seam side down (most loaf pans are 9 X 4 1/2 or 10 X 5 inches)
Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let the bread rise in a warm place about 30-45 minutes or until the loaf has risen and domed over the top of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30 minutes.
Remove the loaf pan to a rack and let it stand until the bread is cool enough to handle. Remove the bread from the pan by loosening the sides with your fingers or a spatula. Place on a rack until it has cooled through.