Make Your own Fresh Bread — Just 4 Ingredients, and No Kneading!

Recipe: Basic No-Knead Bread — Vegan

The smell of baking bread must be the most comforting thing on earth. It’s a smell that anyone would recognize, even if they’ve never baked bread in their life. Bread is so familiar: someone has been baking it somewhere on earth for at least the last 10,000 years. And when it’s made from scratch with a few simple ingredients (and no chemical additives) it is truly healthy and wholesome — the “staff of life” as it has always been called.

The problem is that corporate technologies have taken over and are now mass producing what is referred to as “bread” and shipping it everywhere to fill up massive aisles in the grocery stores and convenience stores and restaurants and fast food joints. Our ancient forebears would hardly recognize most of what passes for bread today, particularly the white flour breads many of us were raised on. Remember Wonder Bread? Soft, almost gooey, flavorless and full of chemicals to prolong shelf life (and do almost the opposite to human life).

But almost about any of the major brands of store bought bread are suspect if you ask me. Just about all of them are terribly over processed and stuffed with chemicals. Here’s a description from Bob’s Red Mill Baking Book of how mass produced bread is made and what happens to it before it reaches your table:

First the grain passes through “huge roller mills and synchronized blowing and sifting systems; climate controlled storage silos and automated packaging systems all designed to process tons of wheat into flour by the hour…” Then the dough is pushed through “rotating ovens, huge, powerful mixers, conveyor ovens and additives to speed fermentation and oxidize dough in the oven to maximize volume in mininum time.” (Bob’s Red Mill Baking Book, Running Press, page 9)

If you think that process sounds unhealthy and less than delicious you are not alone. Millions of people around the world have begun baking their own bread (and millions more never stopped, having inherited a long tradition). In fact, there are many reasons to make and bake your own bread:

  1. Quality, taste (and smell!) – There is simply no comparison between homemade bread and storebought bread. When have you ever gotten that heavenly smell, unforgettable taste coming fresh out of the toaster from a national brand bread? Even the local grocery store bakery can’t beat what comes out of your own oven.
  2. Homemade bread is vastly less expensive – With only four ingredients, a homemade loaf costs roughly 50 cents to make (including the energy costs of baking it). Whereas, everyday loafs in the grocery stores now sell for $3-4 and ‘fancy’ good-for-you specialty brands are now demanding $6 and more.
  3. It’s easier than you think! – There are many bread recipes, including my basic one below, that require no kneading and short proofing times. Also with so few ingredients and so little to do, prep and clean up time and effort is minimal. I don’t even see the need to bother with a bread machine.
  4. Simple ingredients that you control – Homemade bread has no chemical additives, like formaldehyde, and none of the loads of sugar and extra salt that are often added to storebought (as preservatives as much as for taste).
  5. Probiotics – Yeast is a living thing and is foremost among wonderful probiotics that are available for humans to eat. The problem with mechanized-manufactured bread is that the yeast is dead by the time it goes all the way through the process and reaches the consumer.

But Yeast, I stress again, will still be alive if you bake your own bread and will be more available to enhance gut health (so important to overall health and immunity) — it is this quality that so much of our food lacks. In fact yeast is not only probiotic, it is also a prebiotic and helps to feed and encourage other healthy probiotics. And experts have been saying for a long time that strong immunity starts in the gut which is the first defense against many diseases.

It’s mostly yeast that gives off that wonderful smell in freshly baked bread — which everybody loves — so let’s get baking:

But first, would you like some visual instruction and tips on how to make great bread? Let me recommend a series of bread making videos on YouTube that I think are great and especially helpful for beginners or those not especially good at baking (like me). Let me introduce you to Artisan Bread With Steve

Also, have a look at this short YouTube video on quick and easy bread making by Steve Gamelin : Steve’s “turbo” recipe is pretty close to my own basic recipe below.

Basic No-Knead Bread

The 4 Ingredients:

  1. WATER – 14 oz
  2. YEAST2 teaspoons
  3. SALT1 1/2 teaspoons
  4. FLOUR3 3/4 cups (I recommend bread flour but all purpose flour and others can work.)
  • *First- Warm a large bowl (pour warm water over it then dry it), then
  • Add 14 oz very warm water
  • Sprinkle 2 teaspoons yeast over water
  • Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons salt over water
    • Stir with wooden spoon
  • Add 3 3/4 cups of bread flour
  • OPTIONAL: Add 1 tablespoon nutritive yeast to the flour
    • Stir until combined into a rough ball of doe that pulls from the sides of the bowl.
  • Cover bowl lightly with plastic wrap, scarf around bottom of bowl with dishtowel to keep warm and proof for 1.5 hours
    • Stir and “punch down” (de-gas) the doe, by using straight end of the spoon creating another ragged ball of sticky doe
  • OPTIONAL: Sprinkle sesame seeds, or caraway, poppy, oatmeal or any other toppings desired over the sticky doe at this time if desired
  • Using spatula or wooden spoon, place doe in a sprayed/oiled bread pan
    • Allow doe to rise about another hour (again keep warm and lightly covered with plastic wrap) until it crests above the edges of the bread pan
  • Bake for 40 minutes in 400 degree oven.  You may want to cover with foil for last 10 minutes in order not to over brown
  • Take out of oven and cover with a towel for 10-15 minutes still in pan. Remove bread from pan and allow to rest for a few minutes before cutting.

Can’t you smell it now? Dripping with melting buttery spread, the steam still rising from it as you take a bite out of a big thick slice. And this big slab of the ultimate comfort food was made by nobody but you and 4 simple ingredients in just a few hours. It just doesn’t get better than that.

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