Crusty Bread Perfect for a Rainy Day

Crusty bread with three slashes

I’ve got to be honest, this is a recipe I created from inspiration found on another blog, Once Upon a Chef. And the chef in question found her inspiration from a baking book, “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day” which is an old book, but still available out there for sale. But isn’t that like a living language? Bread is life after all. And recipes are a way to share that life, changing and growing as they’re passed from one hand to another.

My tic-tac-toe patterned loaf

I just can’t knead bread today!

In my case, having just had my second shingles vaccine, and still dealing with an achy arm, I wanted to make a special bread for our New Year’s Dinner, but I knew that actually kneading a loaf of bread wasn’t going to happen. So, I searched for a recipe that didn’t require kneading. Once found, I made it my own by using buttermilk and the herb that I wish I could make into perfume, basil paste. It’s too cold and the wrong time of year to get good fresh basil, but I’ve discovered that basil paste is a great substitute.

Tube of Gourmet Garden Basil Paste
There are not more than a few tablespoons in the whole tube!

No-knead bread with basil!

This recipe makes three loaves, which I did, all at once. I gave one away as a gift, we ate the other, and I have one frozen waiting for the next day I eat something that needs a crusty loaf of bread. There is no kneading necessary, but to really make sure the basil is well-mixed in, it does require a bit of scrunching through the dough with your bare hands. Interestingly, buttermilk is a good addition to bread, at least if you like fluffy light dough. It also helps you to get a higher rise, and believe me, this dough is definitely one that rises up enough to fill even the largest bowl!

Buttermilk Basil Bread

Ingredients:

  • 6 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour (plus probably another 1/4 cup to use later)
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ TB instant yeast
  • 2 ½ TB Buttermilk powder
  • 3 cups warm water (plus 1 more cup to use in the oven for steam)
  • 1 ½ TB basil paste
  • Cornmeal for dusting the pan/baking sheet

Instructions:

  • In your largest mixing bowl (mine is 6 ½ quarts) mix together dry ingredients (except cornmeal)
  • Add water and mix well with a spoon. The dough may be sticky. If it’s too sticky to the touch, add a bit of the reserved flour.
Dry ingredients and water being mixed with a spoon
Stir it well before adding basil
  • Add the basil paste, and mix into the dough with your hands until it is well incorporated. Again, add a bit more flour to get the desired consistency. This isn’t dough you’re going to knead, so it is going to be a bit moister than you’re accustomed to
The finished dough pre-rise
  • Cover loosely with plastic wrap, then cover with a towel, and set in a quiet, warm spot for up to two hours.
Dough after two hours of rising
It actually filled the bowl when it was done!
  • Dust one or more baking sheets with cornmeal (depending on how many loaves you’re making. If you choose to freeze or refrigerate the dough at this point and only bake one loaf, you’ll only need one pan.)
  • Lightly dust the dough with flour and separate the dough into thirds.
  • Carefully but quickly work each loaf into a smooth ball, try not to work too much of the flour into the dough, it’s really just to keep your hands from sticking.
  • Place the formed dough onto the baking sheet and let it sit uncovered for 40 minutes. If you’ve refrigerated the dough, give it a full hour to an hour and a half to rise.
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In the lowest portion of the oven, set a baking pan with 1 cup of water in it. This will provide steam to give you a good crust.
  • Dust the top of your loaf(ves) with flour, then cut a pattern in the dough ½ inch deep. I used tic-tac-toe, a star, and slashes. You can even do a design if you’re good with a knife!
  • Place the sheet into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until nicely browned.
3 loaves of bread browned from the oven
We couldn’t wait until they were totally cooled!

Allow to cool if you can! Then slice and enjoy. It’s great as a dipping bread, smothered in butter or mascarpone, or used to soak up gravy and juices. If you’ve made all three loaves at once, make sure to freeze or refrigerate any that won’t get eaten. The ones I froze did quite well heated up in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes the next day.

Enjoy and share!


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Wondering what else I’ve been cooking up, or where else I’ve been out and about? Feel free to read a few more of my recent posts.