It is totally acceptable to be caught up in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season at this point. The Christmas music is unabashedly pumping through Trader Joe's, the promotional emails for special holiday sales are in full force, and I still can't afford anything on the Anthropologie holiday gift guide.
Thanks, J.Crew for being more reasonable.
On top of all of that, this is also the season when people pull out the big guns in the kitchen. Chewy peppermint mocha cookies, fresh cranberry cream scones, and homemade baklava.
In light of all of this craziness, I'm suggesting that instead of busting your butt to razzle dazzle all of the people around you, just make them some bread.
Bread is familiar. Bread is comforting. Bread makes the whole house smell like a hug.
I mean, if you could smell a hug, I guess. Just go with it.
I know you're thinking, "Ahh! Is that yeast?! That's totally not simple."
It is, really. The best part about yeast is that it does all of the work for you. Just trust it.
Yes, making bread is a lot easier with a stand mixer. Between the yeast and the mixer, it's almost as if the bread makes itself. You just get to take all the credit.
You could also do it the old fashioned way and knead it with your hands. Definitely more work, but a good tricep workout, nonetheless.
If you do have a stand mixer, the hardest part might be the waiting. Unfortunately, the yeast needs time to work all of its puffy magic.
But that gives you an hour and a half to put some ornaments on the tree, or knock out some of that online shopping. You don't want all of those promotional e-mails to go to waste, do you?
Bread is your friend.
Then look! Before you know it it's huge!
And you know what you get to do next?
Yup. you get to punch it.
Making bread is a stress reliever.
Once you punch it you split it in half and make each half into a cute dough nugget. That's really all I can think to call it. These are about 10 inch nuggets. I don't know if that disqualifies them from the nugget category. Oh well.
|Wanna guess which one Matt made?|
Sorry guys, you have to wait again. But this time it's only for 30 minutes. Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. That's actually a part of the recipe now.
You get to put them in the oven now! You'll do some fancy things like spraying water on the loaves every three minutes for the first nine minutes, but that gives it this wonderfully golden, crusty crust.
And then you nom. Dip it in some olive oil with Italian seasonings and a sprinkle of parmesean cheese, or heat up some soup and use bread as your soup vehicle instead of a spoon. The world is your oyster. Enjoy the simplicity of the bread.
Classic Italian Bread
slightly adapted from Emeril
2 cups water, lukewarm
2 packets active dry yeast
5 and 3/4 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 egg white
1/3 cup cornmeal or semolina flour
Place the water and yeast in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes.
Using a dough hook attachment, add the flour and sugar to the water and mix on low speed until a dough starts to form.
Drizzle the oil and salt into the dough and beat on medium speed for 5 to 8 minutes, or until a smooth, firm, elastic dough is formed.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and spray the dough with a thin coating of cooking spray. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to proof in a warm, draft-free place for 11/2 hours or until doubled in size.
Remove the plastice wrap, punch down and flatten the rounded dough with the heel of your hand.
Rip the dough into two equal halves.
Roll the dough up tightly, sealing the seam well after each roll. The dough should be elongated and oval-shaped, with tapered and rounded (not pointed) ends.
Place the dough on a pizza stone or an inverted baking sheet, heavily dusted with cornmeal or semolina flour. Allow the dough to proof, loosely covered with a damp towel, for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
While the dough is proofing, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
When the dough has doubled in size, brush the dough with the egg white. Using a sharp knife, score 3 (1/4-inch deep) slashes across the top of the dough at a 45 degree angle.
Spray the dough generously with water from a water bottle and place in the oven on the pizza stone or baking sheet. Immediately close the oven and bake for 3 minutes. Open the oven door and spray the dough again with the water bottle. Close the oven door and bake for an additional 3 minutes before spraying the dough for a third time (the spraying of the dough will ensure a crisp golden brown crust).
Bake the dough for 15 - 20 minutes, or until a hollow thud is heard when the bread is whacked with the bowl of a wooden spoon. Allow the bread to cool slightly before serving.