A New Neighbor Welcome Basket and the Best Homemade Crusty Bread

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I have been looking forward to sharing this post with you ever since I had the idea of starting this blog. We recently had a new neighbor move into our cul de sac. I love the idea of bringing a new neighbor a special welcome basket. If you have ever gone through the moving process, you know how taxing it is. Add to that, not knowing anyone in your new neighborhood. Bringing a new neighbor a welcome gift is a great way to introduce yourself to your new neighbors and make them feel more comfortable in their new home. I also use this basket as a house warming gift for friends that move into a new home. I got the idea from my favorite christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. George and Mary use this blessing when the Martini family moves into their new home in Bailey Park.

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The basket includes salt, wine, and homemade crusty artisan bread.

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The recipe for the bread comes from “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” cookbook by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I highly recommend this book. You can click on the book title to view the book on Amazon. The premise of this recipe is to be able to make a delicious crusty artisan style loaf of bread with very minimal effort. You spend five minutes mixing four ingredients together. Let the dough rise for two hours and pop it into the refrigerator. When you want to bake a loaf of bread, pull a one pound portion of dough out of the bucket, shape it, let it rest, and bake it. I have been making this bread for many years now. My husband said I have ruined any other bread for him as he prefers my homemade bread over any restaurant or store bought bread. It is THAT good!!! When I tell people how simple this bread is, they never believe me. I promise, you can make this bread even if you have never baked a loaf of bread in your life! The authors of this book also have gluten free dough that makes a delicious crusty loaf of bread. YES, I said gluten free, delicious, and crusty bread in the same sentence!!! The recipe for the gluten free dough is in the book mentioned above. I am going to give you the master recipe from the book that I mainly use to make boules, baguettes, and dinner rolls along with some tips I have learned throughout the years of using this dough.

MASTER RECIPE

Ingredients:

3 cups (1 1/2 pounds) lukewarm water (you can use cold water, but it will take the dough longer to rise. Just don’t use hot water or you may kill the yeast)

1 tablespoon granulated yeast ( you can use any kind of yeast)

*If you use cake yeast you will need 1.3 ounces.

1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher Salt

6 1/2 cups (2-pounds) all-purpose flour (This recipe was tested using Gold Medal Flour. I use King Arthur all purpose flour. It has a higher protein content, so I use 1lb 12oz)

Mixing the dough:

In a 5 or 6 quart bowl or lidded dough bucket (I got my large bucket from Kohls), dump in the water, and add the yeast and salt.

Dump in the flour all at once and stir with a long handled wooden spoon or a Danish Dough Whisk, which is one of the tools that makes the job so much easier!

Stir it until all of the flour is incorporated into the dough, It will be a wet rough dough.

Put the lid on the container, but do not snap it shut. You want the gases from the yeast to escape. (I snap all of the lid down except for one corner.)

Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours to rise. When you first mix the dough it will not occupy much of the container.

But, after the initial 2 hour rise it will pretty much fill it.  DO NOT PUNCH DOWN THE DOUGH! Just let it settle by itself.

The dough will be flat on the top and some of the bubbles may even appear to be popping. (If you intend to refrigerate the dough after this stage it can be placed in the refrigerator even if the dough is not perfectly flat. The yeast will continue to work even in the refrigerator.) The dough can be used right after the initial 2 hour rise, but it is much easier to handle when it is chilled. It is intended for refrigeration and use over the next two weeks, ready for you anytime. The flavor will deepen over that time, developing sourdough characteristics.

The next day when you pull the dough out of the refrigerator you will notice that it has collapsed and this is totally normal for this dough. It will never rise up again in the container.

Dust the surface of the dough with a little flour, just enough to prevent it from sticking to your hands when you reach in to pull a piece out.

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You should notice that the dough has a lot of stretch once it has rested. (If your dough breaks off instead of stretching like this your dough is probably too dry and you can just add a few tablespoons of water and let it sit again until the dough absorbs the additional water.)

Cut off a 1-pound piece of dough using kitchen shears and form it into a ball.  Place the ball on a sheet of parchment paper… (or rest it on a generous layer of corn meal on top of a pizza peel.)

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Let the dough rest for at least 40 minutes, (although letting it go 60 or even 90 minutes will give you a more open hole structure in the interior of the loaf. This may also improve the look of your loaf and prevent it from splitting on the bottom.) You will notice that the loaf does not rise much during this rest, in fact it may just spread sideways, this is normal for this dough.

You can also try the “refrigerator rise trick,” shaping the loaves and then immediately refrigerating them overnight. By morning, they’ll have risen and are ready for the oven after a brief room-temp rest while the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a Baking Stone* on the center rack, with a metal broiler tray on the bottom (never use a glass vessel for this or it will shatter), which will be used to produce steam. (The tray needs to be at least 4 or 5 inches away from your stone to prevent it from cracking.)

*(or Cast Iron Pizza Pan– which will never crack and conducts heat really well. Be careful to dry it after rinsing with water or it will rust)

Cut the loaf with 1/4-inch slashes using a very sharp serrated knife. (If your slashes are too shallow you will end up with an oddly shaped loaf and also prevent it from splitting on the bottom.) If your dough is collapsing when you make the slashes, it may be that the dough has overproofed or your knife it dull and dragging the dough too much.

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Slide the loaf into the oven onto a preheated stone and add a cup of hot water to the broiler tray. Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes or until a deep brown color. As the bread bakes you should notice a nice oven spring in the dough. This is where the dough rises.

If you used parchment paper you will want to remove it after about 20-25 minutes to crisp up the bottom crust. Continue baking the loaf directly on the stone for the last 5-10 minutes.

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Allow the loaf to cool on a rack until it is room temperature. If you cut into a loaf before it is cooled you will have a tough crust and a gummy interior. It is hard to wait, but you will be happy you did! Make sure you have a nice sharp Bread Knife that will not crush the bread as you cut. Or you can tear it apart as they do in most of Europe.

If you have any leftover bread just let it sit, uncovered on the cutting board or counter with the cut side down. If you cover a bread that has a crust it will get soggy. Leftover bread makes delicious toast the next morning.

*Recipe Source: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

TIPS

*I always let my boules (round loaf) rest 90 minutes. If you want to bake your bread sooner, shape it into a baguette. I let the baguette rise for 40 minutes and it only takes 20-25 minutes to bake

*When my dough is gone, I do not clean out my bucket. I like to leave a little bit of dough residue in the bucket. It helps to flavor my next batch of dough with a sourdough flavor.

*Don’t be afraid to add extra flour to your dough while you are shaping it if it is too wet to handle.

*I let my shaped dough rest on parchment paper, then transfer it directly to the oven on the parchment. I found the cornmeal to be very messy.

*To make rolls, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Pull off a 3oz. piece of dough and shape into a ball for each roll. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Let rest 20 minutes. Cut a cross on the top of each roll using kitchen shears or a serrated knife. Brush the tops with melted butter and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Brush  rolls with melted butter right out of the oven. Enjoy!

*Check out the author’s website for more information and instructional videos

Master Recipe-click on this link to go to the artisan bread in five minutes a day website.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does! And I hope you use it to bless all those around you.

 

4 thoughts on “A New Neighbor Welcome Basket and the Best Homemade Crusty Bread

  1. This is the only bread my husband likes anymore also! I’ve always got a batch in the frig. My kids are growing up thinking that having fresh baked bread all of the time is the norm, so they’re amazed when people say ‘oh, you baked this bread yourself’? Such a simple recipe everyone should try it.

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