Let's talk bread today: easy, almost no-knead, 'I just produced this from almost thin air' bread. I've been trying out some new bread recipes recently, all in honour of a new work project. I've been working with a colleague from another university on a new research project we're planning, and we've evolved a very productive little tradition. She drives over to our house, which is about an hour and a bit from where she lives, but in return, I provide lunch, usually something bread and soup-related. Oh, and we get some work done, too. A few times I've used the breadmaker I bought for a princely £2.50 from the tip shop, but if I can fit it into my morning I like to make my own by hand. This was one I made a couple of weeks ago, inspired by its title of 'The easiest bread in the world'. It's another Dan Lepard recipe, and I do like his recipes (I have him to thanks for the winning entry in the Choc Chip Cookie Research Project after all).
The loaf is based on a starter, which doesn't sound too easy, but in fact it means that you get most of it out of the way in advance. I mixed up the starter the night before and left it in the fridge, and then just added the remaining ingredients in the morning. After that you just knead the mixture briefly three times over the course of half an hour, shape and bake. It sounds churlish to complain but I did find the kneading process a bit of a faff since I had to come back downstairs for the third knead. Perhaps Mr Lepard would point out that trying to combine work and breadmaking was outside the remit of what he had in mind when he named his loaf.
There are several variations offered to the basic white loaf, and I picked the multigrain and honey one which also just involved a bit of pre-soaking. My dough was extremely wet, so much so that I had to add quite a bit of extra flour, but I would put this down to the fact that I had to estimate the weights of the add-ins, on account of having accidentally dunked our weighing scales in the sink along with the chopping boards it was hidden between. It did not like it. It sulked terminally in fact, and I had not yet been able to buy a new one. Despite this, however, the bread turned out really well. I'm always a bit nervous serving a new bread recipe to a guest, but my collaborator (and I mean that in the best non-sinister sense) is very open to being pleased, and she put this one at the top of the breads I'd made for her. We had it smorgasbord-style, with cheese, salad, hummus and pickles.
So, if you want a bread you can whip up on a working morning, this is the one for you. In fact, I'd say this could easily become a go-to bread recipe for any occasion, and it would take all sorts of add-ins and flour variations. I'll definitely be making it again, but in the meantime I might be painting our new scale neon yellow to avoid further risky washing up mistakes!
Dan Lepard's Easiest Loaf in the World: from the Guardian Magazine