Operation Domesticity

We interrupt this writing day to bring you … bread.

A few months back, I decided to put my domestic skills to the test and bake a loaf of bread. But, even I know that my domestic skills suck, so I went with the easiest bread recipe ever. The results were okay. It was tasty, but my bread ended up much less substantial than expected and, frankly, a little airy and chewy. That, however, did not stop Hubs and me from eating every last crumb.

When I mentioned that I tried the recipe, my friend Karin told me that Cook’s Illustrated had improved it and so I proceeded to badger her for a copy until she finally brought it last week. Turns out it’s available on the internet. Whoops.

So, feeling the urge to be domestic again (and looking for any excuse to avoid a painful revision), I decided to test the 2.0 recipe. The result was much better. Not at all airy and completely substantial. It had more flavor and the crust was slightly thicker and crispier, which is just the way I like it. From now on this will be the recipe I use to impress people with my mad baking skillz.

Here’s what you need:

A couple of modifications on my part. First, the Cook’s Illustrated version calls for all-purpose flour, but why use all-purpose when you have bread flour? I’m not sure there’s that much of a difference, so if you only have all purpose on hand, use it.

Second, the recipe suggests using Budweiser for your mild-flavor lager. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I simply will not buy Budweiser. Too many bad college memories. I chose the Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager. It wasn’t bad, but I’m open to suggestions.

Here’s how ridiculously easy the recipe is. Once you’ve gathered everything up, mix up your dry ingredients in a large bowl and then pour in all your wet ingredients and combine until you have a shaggy ball of dough. So easy. After that, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, finish the rest of the beer, and wait 18 hours. At this point, I probably should have gone back to the revision, but instead I read a book.

Anyway, the rest of the recipe is just as simple as the first part. Place a sheet of parchment paper in a shallow skillet (I used my Lodge 10-inch skillet) and lightly spray it with cooking spray. Then remove the dough from the bowl and knead it into a small ball. Put the ball in the skillet, cover with plastic wrap, and wait another two hours.

With all this waiting you would think I could be doing a lot of writing. You would think that, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong.

About 30 minutes before you’re ready to bake the bread, set your oven at 500 degrees and put your dutch oven in to heat up. The recipe suggests using an enameled cast iron, but I used my trusty Lodge. Then find every potholder you ever owned and get them ready. You’re going to need them. After the pot is heated, transfer the bread to the pot by using the parchment paper. Genius idea, really. Just don’t burn yourself. Then reduce the heat to 425 and bake with the lid on the dutch oven for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 20 minutes.

Using your gazillion potholders, remove the bread from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

And here is were I worry that the Cook’s Illustrated editors are smoking crack. You’re supposed to let the bread cool to room temperature for about two hours. Two hours!? Seriously? Have you smelled warm bread? Do you think it’s possible to resist the craving to taste warm bread once you have smelled it. Let my clue you in, it isn’t. Wait as long as you can, but I only lasted 10 minutes

That small disagreement aside, I think this recipe is a huge improvement over the New York Times version. Very tasty and much less complicated. (Not that the NYT version was complicated, just that this one is so much easier.) Also, cleaning up for this recipe means washing one bowl. That alone is enough to win my loyalty.

A note about the beer. When I first read the recipe, I was concerned about the beer addition. My mother occasionally makes beer bread and the combination is just not my thing. I was pleased to note that this bread was not beery at all, but that the beer did seem to boast the flavor. You can use non-alcoholic if you so choose.

So Operation Domesticity was a success this time around. Operation Revise that crappy story, not so much.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated.

4 thoughts on “Operation Domesticity

  1. Bud Lite is the devil’s drink!

    Congrats on the bread – the pictures look really tasty! I hope Operation Revise turns out a similarly substantial and non-airy result. As a fellow short story writer, I know how draining revision can be, and I wish you much luck.



  2. I’m sold! I will definitely queue this up for trying! 🙂 Thanks for giving me a head up on the Cook Illustrated version…it sounds fantastic!


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