One of my most consistent annoyances when trolling the internet is the misuse/overuse of the word “simple.” People, not everything is simple, and simple is not inherently always better. Usually, simple means “expensive” and “well-curated.” Whereas simple should mean eating pizza in your pajamas on a Friday night, it is often attributed to images of children in pristine and minimalist clothing playing with upscale wooden toys. Anyone who has ever tried to keep a child clean AND occupied can testify to the radical non-simplicity of the task.On the other end of the spectrum, let us not confuse simple with “easy.” I see this misrepresentation most commonly in two domains. The first is cloth diapering. Obviously, I do not have children, nor do I have much (any?) experience with cloth diapering. So if my mom friends feel passionately called to correct me, just save us all some time, label me ignorant, and move along. But every time I read a blog post or Facebook thread about the subject (which happens more than I should admit, as I have a strange fascination with how people spend their time), moms start by praising cloth diapers as simple and amazing… and then continue to detail lots of steps that, while perhaps easy, are legion, and involve way too much energy. Multiple washes, “strippings,” strange cocktails of all natural cleaning products? Not simple.I have a similar critique of a certain bread recipe I always see floating around Pinterest. It comes in all shapes and forms, but it is some sort of amazing country French bread recipe that you don’t knead, cooks in a dutch oven, etc. The catch? It takes like 24 hours to make. Thus, while the steps might be easy…. who in their right mind gets a craving for bread and then spends 24 hours making it? By that time you could have easily walked to Panera six times and come back with as many loaves. But then again, a hearty loaf of homemade bread really is the tastiest treat. My college roommate Jenny used to make big loaves of crusty French bread for us to enjoy on cold Michigan nights and I was shocked when she shared the recipe. Five ingredients. Five minutes of hands-on time. An hour and a half total. Bread perfection. So simple. Simple, in preparation and components. But simple too in the final product. Bread that is nothing special, but makes you feel that special coziness all through your being when you eat it. I make these loaves frequently, sometimes messing up the recipe entirely, but it always (miraculously) turns out. We eat it most during the winter months, using it to soak up bowls of hearty soup. Somewhere throughout the years that it has graced our DC table we started calling it soup bread, the perfect vehicle for thick sauces and creamy soups. But it is equally good slathered in butter and honey to start a chilly morning. Yesterday I just had to have some, and with everything on hand, I made myself a simple loaf of bread in the midst of a complicated world.
- 1 TBS Yeast
- 1 TBS sugar
- 1 TBS (but don’t fill it all the way- like 3/4) salt
- 2 cups warm water
- 4 cups flour
- Mix sugar, yeast, and salt. Add water and allow to proof for 5 minutes.
- Stir in flour so that ball is a slightly sticky, shaggy, mass. Add more flour if it is too wet.
- Knead just a couple times and then form into a loaf on a parchment covered baking sheet or pan.
- Let rise for 1 hour(ish).
- Cut slits in bread and then put pan into COLD oven. Turn over to 415 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until top is golden and bread sounds slightly hollow when you knock against it.
- Cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes. Best if consumed within 24 hours of baking.
Hannah – I’m going to have to try and burst your bubble about the “no-knead” bread recipe! Honestly, I thought it was a little ridiculous, but when I saw the type of bread it produces (officially deemed “pain francais” by my Frenchie husband) I decided it’s worth the planning. In fact, the actual making of the bread is REALLY easy, it’s just the timing that isn’t so simple. I not have a sourdough starter living in my fridge, so when I make the bread, it’s literally pouring a bit of that, some flour (even with the expensive fancy King Arthur’s bread flour it’s still super cheap per loaf! And I can add half whole wheat, or oat, or buckwheat, or whatever I please!), water, salt (an important ingredient for the yeast to do its thing – it’s not so much for taste), and a wee bit of extra commercial yeast just to help a little, in a bowl, mixing a wet dough, and leaving it be for 12-16 hours. When I’m ready to bake, I preheat the oven with my Le Creuset pot – which serves as a mini oven inside. Once preheated, I flip the dough inside and in 45 minutes I have a loaf that bests the $6 organic artisinal stuff I was shelling out for at the farmers’ market. I was never much of a bread baker and I am so so so impressed at the texture of this method – you get the chewiness and big holes with the crackly crust. Granted, it’s certainly not as simple as your currently posted recipe, but you should give it a try once 😛
That being said, the next time I haven’t planned ahead, I am going to try this recipe you just posted!
See… I’m totally sure it could be tasty, but the fact that it took all that explaining AND needs starter will probably keep me from doing it. It’s the same reason why I never have homemade ice cream (much to James’ chagrin). Whenever I want it, I want it THEN, not the forever after it takes to make it.
But I believe you that it’s tasty!
I never ever bake bread….but this one I might just try.
It’s a great gateway bread!
Oh yes. This is awesome. I am all about bread recipes that can be made in NOT five to twenty-four hours. I want bread NOW (or in an hour and a half). I’ll definitely try this. Maybe this weekend. With soup.
NOW is always the ideal bread time. Always.
Your Simple vs. Easy rant. Preach. That is me in my head ALL of the time.
Let us preach together for all to hear! : 0
Cloth diapering…not simple. In fact, super gross and super annoying. After three years and two toddlers in cloth my official position is that it’s not cool, by a long shot. I LOVE disposable diapers and there are about fifty other ways my carbon footprint is like miniscule, so I don’t really care about that. BUT it IS cheaper, and since I would like to do other things with that money, I’m back to cloth diapering part time. So I suffer and save money, for now. 🙂
Also, I am spoiled rotten with bread. I have a machine that does all the kneading and rising and then I put it in the oven and voila! 🙂 I love homemade bread and if my machine breaks again (it did once) I will definitely turn to this recipe. Have you tried it with wheat flour at all?
I totally agree with the expense part… and I appreciate that you can recognize doing it, but still not liking it! : )
I allow myself the luxury of disposables at night and days when we’re running lots of errands or going to church.
Geez, it’s amazing how much time and energy revolves around diapers. 😛
Revealing the depth of my lacking culinary skills (although ever hopeful to improve)… what does it mean to let it “proof” in Step 1? (Picture me with my head in my hands, humiliated for asking such a question.)
Totally a legit question! It means let the yeast “proove” itself (ok, so that’s how I remember it!). Basically, after five minutes, the yeast should have come alive and made little bubbles rise to the surface. If there are no bubbles, it means your yeast went bad and you shouldn’t continue that batch or it won’t rise.
I only know what it means because I just binge-watched a season of The Great British Bake-Off! Approximately half of the show is the bakers standing around looking nervous while their dough proofs 🙂
So I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now and there have been many times where I have wanted to comment but felt foolish as you wouldn’t know me from Eve.
But the Old Testament and this bread finally did it for me. I am a big fan. I truly enjoy how much your personality comes through in your writing. It’s like opening up a favorite book every time I read a post.
And the bread was perfectly yummy and perfectly simple, and as a mom of four boys, both are very important.
Anyways, I wanted to just pop over to say I am encouraged by your blog and laugh at your humor….
From a fellow American living in Norway.
I’m so glad that you came out of hiding to comment! : ) Nothing makes me happier. I hope this bread can [simply and quickly] grace many dinner tables for hungry boys!
I’m not sure what I did wrong– maybe was too generous with my 2 cups of water? But I had to add about an extra cup of flour, and ended up with a loaf almost the size of my cookie sheet! :-O (I don’t know yet how it tastes– maybe delicious!)
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I must be honest here. I dislike baking, but I love bread! I made this loaf out of what I had in the house, and that is wheat flour. The dough got pretty sticky as I knead it in the bowl in which I mixed the ingredients to simplify the process for myself, so the dough, as it sat on the parchment paper spread out while it rose. I went ahead and baked it as instructed, left the loaf in the oven and set the timer on 30 minutes. I went outside to get my steps in, and when zi checked on the loaf upon my return it had 15 seconds left to bake! When I pulled the bread loaf out of oven it smelled amazing and sounded hollow when I tapped on it. I made it to go with my “refrigerator soup” I made last night, so it doesn’t have to look like a shapely loaf, it just has to sop up the soup and taste marvelous! Ask me how it tasted! I’d post a picture if I could, but I can’t.
How did it taste??? It is not at all a pretty loaf… but the ease and taste totally make up for it for us!
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