The tradition of breaking bread has always related to people coming together and sharing a meal. It’s a ritual of communion and friendship.
I began the quest to learn to make bread when I was in my 20’s. Everyone told me that it was impossible to explain the texture of bread dough – that it was something you had to experience. Since I didn’t know anyone who made “real” bread, I signed up for a Saturday bread-making workshop in Don Mills, Ontario and there I made a perfect loaf of bread. While others couldn’t explain the texture to look for when kneading bread, I can. Tug on your ear lobe. That’s it. Seriously – that’s the closest thing I’ve found.
Having made the perfect loaf of bread, I promised myself never to do that again. That is a LOT of work and I don’t have strong hands or wrists. So I bought a bread machine. While I detested the texture of bread machine bread, I used it for many years to make the dough, which I then shaped and baked traditionally.
When the pandemic of 2020 hit us, everyone started making bread and if you search the internet, you’ll find thousands of recipes for No Knead Breads. I played with some of those and experimented with different yeasts and rising times. For Christmas, I decided to make a Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Artisan loaf. It took me 3 variations to come up with what I feel is the best.
Artisan bread should be soft and airy inside, with lots of holes and crevices. The crust should be crispy and golden brown. I tried to hold true to that while I added in the savory flavours of roasted garlic and herbs.
The list of ingredients is at the bottom of this post, but I wanted to walk you through my process.
Roasting the garlic
I like to use a medium sized garlic with at least 8 to 10 cloves. I cut off the top to expose the cloves and drizzled olive oil on top and sprinkle a bit of kosher salt. It’s roasted in a small covered baking dish, but since I don’t have one, I used a Pyrex bowl and covered it with tin foil. It worked perfectly. I baked it in the oven for 45 mins at 400 degrees F. until the cloves were soft and golden brown. Then I took it out and let it cool before using.
Proofing the yeast
Most of the recipes I found had the yeast mixed in with the flour. I like to proof my yeast. It only takes a few minutes and I’d rather find out at this point that my yeast is not good, before I use it in the bread and be disappointed with the results.
I use active dry yeast and instant yeast interchangeably. I’m currently using two types of instant yeast – Fleischmans, and British Class. The latter is finer and performs better, but Fleischmans is easier to find in Canada. I found the British Class in No Frills by the way.
I start with warm water – around 100 degrees F. If it’s too hot, you’ll kill the yeast. The warm water helps activate the yeast faster. In a large bowl (preferably glass), I add 1-1/4 cups of warm water, 1 tsp of sugar, and then sprinkle 2-1/4 tsp of yeast on top. I stir it all together and wait 5 to 10 minutes, until I see the bloom on top.
Then I know I’m ready. While I’m waiting, I mince up the roasted garlic so it will be ready.
Add in the seasoning
When I see the yeast bloom, I mix in the salt, rosemary, and garlic. When substituting dry rosemary for fresh, remember that dried herbs are stronger, so only use a third. In this recipe, I added 2 tsp of dried rosemary, but you can substitute 2 tbsp of fresh if available.
Mix in the flour
When measuring flour for the bread, do not pack it down in the measuring cup. You want the flour to be light a fluffy. I stir my flour and then gently spoon it into the measuring cup. Add it to the water in whatever way works best for you. Some people prefer to mix the flour in a little at a time, others prefer a mixer with a dough hook (which I don’t have).
My preferred method (because of my weak wrists) is to add the flour around the outside edge of the bowl and use the handle of a wooden spoon to stir, pull, and twist until all the flour is moistened, using a spatula to scrape the side of the bowl when necessary. You’ll be left with a wet, sticky dough. This is often referred to as shaggy dough. I drizzle the dough with 1 tbsp of olive oil, and roll it around so the oil covers it all.
We’re ready for the first rising. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a draft free place to rise. You can use a tea towel to cover it, but I find it takes longer to rise. Since it’s winter at the moment, my house is a bit cool, so I put my bowl in the oven. Even though it’s off, it is draft free. I let it rise for around 1 to 1-1/2 hours. What you want is for the dough to double in size. If you’re in a hurry for the dough to rise, leave the oven light on while it’s in there.
When the dough has doubled in size, turn the bowl upside down onto a floured surface. This dough will be a bit sticky so sprinkle a bit of flour on it so you can work with it. Don’t punch it down or you will lose the bubbles in the dough. Fold it in half and keep turning and folding it until it’s no longer sticky and it’s stiffer and resembles a dough ball. It’s usually around 5 times. Place the dough, seam side down, into a floured bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
While you wait for the dough to rise again, place your dutch oven into the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. If you don’t have a dutch oven, use a large pot with an oven safe handle and a good fitting lid. My oven takes about 30 mins to reach 450 F.
Baking the bread
Put the dough ball into the preheated pot (carefully – don’t burn yourself) seam side up. Those seams will create the lovely crevices at the top of the loaf. Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes. The steam inside the pot makes the bread so soft inside yet crispy outside. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and keep baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaf of the shade of golden brown you love.
Carefully toss the loaf out of the pot onto your counter or cutting board. Let it cool and resist temptation to cut into it for at least 10 minutes.
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 tsp olive oil
- salt to taste
- 2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1-1/4 cups warm water
- 1-1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp dry rosemary (or 2 tbsp fresh rosemary)
- 8-10 garlic cloves, roasted and chopped
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Cut the head off the garlic to expose the cloves and place in an oven proof baking dish.
- Drizzle olive oil over the cloves and sprinkle with salt.
- Cover and roast for 45 mins at 400 degrees F.
- Remove and let cool.
- Stir sugar and yeast into warm water in a large mixing bowl and let sit 5-10 minutes until the yeast blooms.
- Add in the salt, rosemary, and roasted garlic.
- Add flour to the bowl and stir until all the flour is mixed in, using a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl. The dough may look rough and shaggy.
- Drizzle olive oil all around the dough, turning to coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a draft free place to rise (I place in the oven). Let rise at least one hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Place the dough on a floured cutting board. Sprinkle the top with flour to make it easier to work with.
- Pull and fold in the sides until the dough becomes relatively stiff. Shape into a round ball.
- Flour a second bowl and place the dough seam side down into the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
- Place an oven proof pot or casserole dish into the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. When the oven reaches temperature, carefully place the dough, seam side up, into the pot and place in the oven.
- Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the lid after 30 minutes and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes until the top is golden brown.
- Remove the bread and let cool approx. 10 minutes before trying to cut it.
This bread has no preservatives so it will go stale quickly. Here are some of the ways I use it:
- Warm it slightly in the oven to bring back the crispy crust.
- Slice and toast for an exceptional artisan sandwich with your favourite ingredients.
- Cut into cubes, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes for homemade croutons to use in salads and soups.
- Slice and let the bread dry out then toss in a blender for savory bread crumbs.
What ideas can you come up with?