Bread recipe, desert hermit style

Every now and then somebody asks for my bread recipe, and it has been a long time since I talked about that. So here’s the current version.

Keep in mind that bread in the developmental stage is very sensitive to environmental stuff, like altitude and humidity. I’m at 6000 feet with really low humidity and this is how I do it after seventeen years or so – your efforts may not work perfectly if you follow these instructions slavishly. Be prepared to adapt to your own circumstances.

Lots of pictures below the fold.

It doesn’t take a lot of space but you do need to know where everything is. I’ve been doing this for a long time in the same place and the same way. But about five years ago I spent a month in the city in somebody else’s air-conditioned house with a big beautiful kitchen and nothing ever worked out right for me. So you’ll find yourself developing your workspace to fit your own needs.

Two teaspoons of regular yeast, two teaspoons of salt and four tablespoons of sugar, stirred into a little less than 2 cups of warm water. Give it a couple of minutes for the yeast to wake up…

…and froth.

Then stir in one egg and a spritz of olive oil.

I start with half a cup of whole wheat flour, ground from wheatberries. This is optional but I find it adds remarkably to the taste and texture of the loaf. Too much, though, and you’ll have problems with rising and texture. Settling on half a cup took some experimentation.

Then stir in white flour…

…a cup at a time at first, then half a cup at a time till you can’t really stir anymore but beat it in. You’re going to end up with about 3 and a half cups total until…

…you have a lump of dough and it looks too dry. In my experience this is the hard part: You can easily go too far, so approach with caution. If it’s still sticking to the sides of the bowl you’re getting there. But once you reach the “lump of dough” phase it’s time to put down the beater and start kneading by hand. This will take at least five minutes and will give you a workout. You’ll end up with…

…a lump of dough that’s still a little sticky. This part took me a lot of practice: The final proportions of flour, water and kneading is probably the most variable factor and in the early days it got kind of discouraging. The failures are still tasty, though, so don’t despair.

Now for the first rise…

Cover the dough with a dish towel and let it rise till it has roughly doubled. It takes mine half an hour.

Once you’re there, transfer the dough to a greased bread pan and punch it down.

I lightly smear oil on top, not really sure how necessary that is. If you want to experiment with fancier toppings, this is the time. Cover the pan again and let it rise. I usually do the second rise in two 15-minute sections, lighting the oven after the first fifteen minutes just because it takes my oven 15 minutes to heat up. Once the second rise is done…

…pop it in the oven.

350o for 40 minutes.

And there you go.

Now, you need to let the loaf cool for a couple of hours on a rack, so there’s one final step that’s vitally important…

Barricade it against countersurfing dogs with a taste for fresh bread and no proper sense of personal property. Not mentioning any names.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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7 Responses to Bread recipe, desert hermit style

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Joel.


  2. Tennessee Budd says:

    Joel, what size is that bread pan?
    I use a bread machine, & the 1.5-lb loaf works for me for a week. I’ve been thinking about making it by hand, but don’t yet have a pan for it.

  3. Joel says:

    TB, the pan is 9X5 which is pretty much the standard size.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks compadre. I’m sure I’ve read about your breadmaking multiple times over the years and equally sure they flew right over my head cuz I had no particular interest at the time. But as I age, i find that the finer things in life have begun to interest me more.
    And btw, that Tobie has grown up into one fine looking pup.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If you skip the kneading step, it’s crumbly but otherwise fine. Good for when you’re tired of chewing all the dang time, but don’t want broth.

  6. Mike says:

    Now you are just making me hungry. 😋 Thanks for the post, Joel.

  7. Tennessee Budd says:

    Thanks, Joel!
    I often see ‘loaf pans’ which are smaller, at least too small to get me through a week. I have one 5×9, and need to pick up a couple more.

To the stake with the heretic!