Monday, May 25, 2009

Simplifying My Homemade Bread

I've been making Jim Lahey's artisan bread lately.  It is as good as any crusty fresh artisan bread I have ever tasted from a high-end bakery.  It costs almosts nothing to make, and requires almost no effort.

I just mix 

3 cups of flour
1.5 cups of warm water (straight out of the tap)
1.5 tsp of salt
.25 tsp of yeast

I mix it for a few seconds with clean hands...then walk away for 12 hours or so.

In Lahey's video, he cooks the loaves in a HOT oven in VERY EXPENSIVE cast iron pots.

I looked into buying one of these...and I still might.  But for the sake of frugality...I've been making mine in terra cotta planters.  

I went to my local garden center and picked up a shallow clay saucer (the kind used for catching the water that drains out the hole in the bottom of the pot), and a mid-sized planter pot that had no hole in the bottom. 

The pots stand up to the extreme heat and are a good container for bread baking.  The bottom saucer also works perfectly as a pizza stone.  I can use it easily in my oven or on my barbecue.

Harvesting Yeast From The Air

Sure, you can buy yeast in little packets and use it to make your bread.

Or you can harvest wild yeast from the air.

My next loaf of Artisan bread will be made with my own sourdough starter.  I've just poured some flour and warm water in a cloth-covered jar and set it out to harvest yeast and bacteria that feed on the flour.   It takes time....a few days to a week to get your starter ready, but very little effort.  I just feed my starter morning and evening at the same time I water my sprouts and brew myself a pot of green tea (for drinkingor as an antibacterial flouride mouthwash).

The yeast and bacteria are actually quite difficult to kill once you have established your colony.  You just feed them once a week or so with more flour and water.  As the volume of the starter increases, you just pour some off, and use it to whip up a loaf of fresh crusty homemade bread, using this recipe from

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