A Toast to Comfort Foods

One gal’s mashed potatoes and meatloaf is another’s aloo gobi or pad thai or Cincinnati chili, right?

by Karin Duncker • More.com Member { View Profile }

1 package yeast (check the date to be certain it has not or is not close to expired)

1 TBSP honey

1 TBSP milk

½ TBSP vegetable oil

1 ¼ cups very warm tap water

Corn meal for sprinkling on pan

Making the dough

Add all of the dry ingredients to a large bowl or container — make sure it’s big enough so the dough has plenty of room to double. Whisk the dry ingredients together. Add the milk, then oil, then the honey to a 2-cup measure or bowl. (If you do the honey after the oil in the same spoon, it will slide out easily.) Add 1¼ cups very warm tap water and mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix it up vigorously with a sturdy spoon until there are no dry spots. Go ahead, rough up the dough a bit, it likes that and is great for stress release. The dough will look raggy and that's ok, but if it makes you feel better get your hands in there and knead it a minute so it forms a rough ball. Cover the bowl well with plastic wrap and set aside in a draft-free spot to rise at least 4 ½ hours. If you like you could make it before you go to bed and leave it overnight, or make this before you leave the house in the morning and bake it when you get home. My favorite spot to let dough rise is my microwave. I just stow it in there, shut the door and the yeast has all the privacy it needs to get busy.

Forming the loaf and preparing the oven

When the dough has risen to double in size or so, scrape it onto a floured counter. Get your frustrations out and smack it down to release the air in it, then knead it for about a minute. (FYI: kneading is just folding it on itself over and over.) Form the dough into a ball. Sprinkle some cornmeal liberally on a cookie sheet. Place the dough on the  sheet and jiggle the pan a little to make sure the dough can move. Cover the dough with a clean towel and let rise another 55-60 minutes.

While the dough is rising, move the top oven rack to the middle and if you have a pizza/baking stone** put it on the rack. Place your broiler pan (or another pan that can take the heat) on the bottom of your oven. Preheat oven to 400°F.

Baking the loaf

Once the dough has risen the second time and the oven is hot and ready, take a serrated knife and quickly cut two parallel slits in the top of the dough, about ¼” inch deep. (If you forget to do this, don’t worry; the bread will taste wonderful just the same.) Slide the dough from the cookie sheet with a quick jerk onto the stone (if using), or just place the sheet into the oven. Quickly toss ¼ cup or so of water into the broiler pan and shut door to create a little steam. (And if you forget to do this too, the bread will still taste wonderful.)

Bake 30-35 minutes until golden brown and when you thump on the bottom of the loaf it sounds hollow. Shut off the oven, but keep the bread in for about 5 minutes more (a trick I picked up watching an early Julia Child episode. It dries out any extra moisture in the center of the loaf.) Remove dough to a rack to cool. DON’T cut into it for at least 20 minutes. Trust me, the bread will taste much better when it’s just warm and not hot. Calories: about 55 per ounce.

Variations:

  • Substitute semolina flour or fine cornmeal for the whole wheat, or you could use all AP flour
  • Add in 2 tsp of fennel seeds and ½ cup golden raisins (works nice if you are using semolina flour).
  • Add in 1 TBSP finely chopped rosemary and 1 TBSP lemon zest instead of cinnamon and cardamom.
  • Add in ½ cup chopped kalamata olives, substitute water for the milk and honey, leave out the spices.

**A Note about Pizza/Baking Stones: Baking stones are great for getting a good crust and providing somewhat even heat in your oven. But that doesn’t mean you have to run out and get one to make this recipe. If you don’t have one, just bake the bread on the cookie sheet.

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