Whose afraid of yeast?

I have a friend who is scared of yeast. 


I asked what in the world did she have to fear from yeast?  She replied with “What if I screw it up?” 

So, if that happens, throw it out and start again!  What have you lost?  If you buy yeast in bulk, you have used maybe five cents worth.  Water is free and how much could one tablespoon of sugar cost?  Anyway,  I will have to work on her and her phobia. 

I have made bread since my childhood.  In fact, due to my mom’s persistence, I won a few “silver platters” for my results in 4-H.  (What a struggle we had to get these perfect bread loaves out for competition.  I remember kneading and kneading and not really seeing the purpose, and, I am sure, copping an attitude all the while).

Today, I thank my mom for teaching me these skills so I am not having nightmares about yeast!

I want to share my simplest and tastiest bread recipe.  It reminds me of a bread that Schlotzsky’s uses–or it is as close as I have gotten.  I developed my recipe based on one in Jambalaya (see my favorite cookbooks under “Foodie Reads”).  It is super easy and the perfect recipe for someone who has never made homemade bread.  I don’t think you could screw this recipe up.  Here it is:

Rustic Country Bread

 2 c. warm water
1 T. sugar
2 t. sea salt
2 T. dry yeast
4 c. Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (the more local, the better)
2 t. balsamic vinegar
4 T. olive oil

Pour the warm water in a bowl of a heavy stand mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, add the sugar and salt and mix.  Sprinkle yeast on top of water mixture and let set one minute.  After one minute, mix with paddle.  Add 2 cups of the flour and mix.  Add vinegar and mix again.  Gradually add the rest of the flour.   (Dough will be sticky and be a little stiffer than a cake batter.) 

Grease a large mixing bowl with 2 T. of the olive oil.  Scrape dough into bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise 45 minutes.  Divide dough in half and mound each half onto two prepared pie tins.  Let rise for another 45 minutes.  Brush each loaf with 1 T. of olive oil. 

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375 and bake 20 minutes more. (During the last 20 minutes, spray the inside of the oven with water once or twice for a crustier loaf.)

Slice this in half and mound with your favorite sandwich fixins’.  This bread is also a great accompaniment for soups–it’s great to soak up the broth.

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