The Peasant Bread has a soft crust and chewy texture – you can use it for sandwiches, toast (with jam it’s especially good), or to mop up the remnants of a flavorful soup. It’s saltier than your standard loaf (the recipe calls for 2 tablespoons) but not so much that you’ll be reaching for a glass of water. The salinity wasn’t a problem for any of us – especially not Kian or Sadie – but next time, I’d like to try reducing the amount of salt.
NOTE: I got an email on 7/10/07 from Dee Brioche saying that the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of salt, not 2 tablespoons. I can’t find the damn cookbook to verify this, but it certainly makes alot of sense. Thanks, Dee!
It’s definitely a winner. And for someone who’s never made yeast bread from scratch before, it’s an easy recipe to follow. From start to finish, there’s several hours involved, most of which means waiting for the bread rise (which I spent reading the latest copy of Vogue — because Anna Wintour loves bread).
This recipe has bouyed my faith in the Hay Day cookbook. I’ll have to try another, though, to see if said faith keeps floating, or drowns in a horrific boating accident.
Everybody’s Favorite Peasant Bread
1 ½ cups hot water (105- to115-degrees F)
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 pkg (2 ¼ tsp.) active dry yeast
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ cup cool water
5 ½ – 6 ½ cups flour
2 tsp. course (kosher) salt
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Combine hot water, sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Mix quickly to dissolve sugar and yeast; let stand until the mixture bubbles, about 5 minutes. [The bubbling was very subtle, more of a clustered movement under the surface than actual bubbling. I have no idea if that’s normal. — LR]
In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in cool water. Combine with the yeast mixture.
In a large bowl, combine 5 cups of flour with the salt. Over a period of 10 to 15 minutes, gradually stir in the flour into the liquid, using a large wooden spoon of the paddle attachment on a heavy duty mixer set on low speed. The mixture should form an elastic dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl in ribbons. Work enough of the remaining flour with your hands to form a firm yet sticky dough that comes together in a loose ball. It should not be as firm as traditional bread dough and will be too sticky to knead in the traditional manner. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean kitchen towel, and set it to rest at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Butter two 5 to 6 cup loaf pans. Using buttered hands, turn the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Place the dough inside the prepared pans. Set the loaves aside, uncovered, in a warm, draft free corner of the kitchen until they have doubled in size and risen about 1 inch above the sides of the pans, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Brush the tops of the loves with the melted butter, arrange pans on a baking sheet, and bake until crisp and nicely browned on top, 30 minutes. (The loaves will not have risen further.) To test for doneness, tap the the loaf; if done, it should sound hollow.
Turn the bread out of their pans onto a wire rack to cool. (The lightly crisp crust will soften as the loaves cool.) The bread will keep well for 2 or 3 days in an airtight plastic bag or in plastic wrap.