Homemade Peasant Bread Recipe

Bread is a cornerstone of the diets of many people in Western civilization, and has been for centuries. In medieval times, trenchers were flat round disks used as plates by the wealthy, that could be eaten at the end of the meal with sauce or were given to the poor. Women used to wake up before the crack of dawn to get their oven fires to the right temperature for a day dedicated to baking the week’s bread. Today we enjoy dozens of different types of bread in a multitude of forms. There’s nothing quite the same as walking into a kitchen and taking in the delicious scent of baking bread, or enjoying the crunching sound as the knife bites into the fresh, crisp shell of homemade bread.

The only thing keeping today’s masses from experiencing the joys of fresh bread is convenience. In today’s society everything is about quick and easy, and most bread recipes aren’t quick or easy. Bread is a daunting task, and one I was pretty scared of taking on for a long time. Then one day, I ran across this super easy recipe for a simple and delicious bread (the original post is here). Peasant bread isn’t your usual bread, its stripped down (it only has 6 ingredients!) and it isn’t really meant to look pretty.  It’s peasant bread, and peasants don’t have much. What this bread is though, is delicious, and regardless of how easy it was to actually make, if you can say you made your own bread, its pretty impressive.  Enough of my jabbering, lets get to the recipe!

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Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (not bleached)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups lukewarm water (boil water, mix 1/2 cup boiling water to 1 1/2 cups cold water)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • room temperature butter (about 2 tablespoons)

I have a couple quick notes before we get into the directions. The batch I made in these pictures, is a double batch, so my end product is double the amount the above ingredients will yield.

The original recipe also calls for cooking the bread in two medium to large Pyrex/oven safe bowls (which is what I usually do), but this time I wanted to try loaf pans, and the loaf pans worked great. They really didn’t change the cook time (even the mini loaf pans cooked at the same speed as the bigger ones). So, your cooking vessel is really up to you. I’m rather fond of the more sophisticated look of loaf pans, but I also like the rustic look of using bowls, you really can’t go wrong either way.

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First you are going to mix the sugar and lukewarm water together in a small mixing bowl. These are for “waking your yeast up”. Without the yeast your bread won’t rise and it won’t taste nearly as good! The sugar gives the yeast something to eat on and helps it to start puffing up. The temperature of the water is important too, because if it’s too hot, you’ll kill the yeast and if it’s too cold, it won’t do anything. As long as you follow the rule of thumb of a 1/2 cup of boiling water to 1 1/2 cups cold water, you should have the perfect lukewarm water.

Once you have your sugar and water mixture, you’ll sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let the yeast sit, undisturbed for 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll know your mixture is ready when it becomes foamy/bubbly.

While your yeast is standing, is the perfect time to get your dry ingredients mixed together. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.

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Flour and salt

 

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Yeast mixture after 15 minutes

Once your yeast is ready, stir up the mixture, then add it to the flour and mix until all the flour is absorbed. When I was mixing mine up today, I think I over measured my flour a bit, so I had to add a touch more water to make it the right kind of doughy consistency. This is more of  a sticky consistency than other doughs, so anything that touches it will end up covered in dough (just forewarning for those of you who, like me, will end up mixing the dough with your hands, you will get very messy). Once its combined it should look like this

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My mixed dough

Now comes the long, waiting bit. You’re going to cover the bowl with a warm, damp tea/dish towel and let it rise for 1-2 hours in a warm spot. My warm spot is usually inside me oven. While my yeast is sitting, I preheat my oven to 350°F, and then turn it off. Once my dough is ready, I open the oven and stick it inside and leave the oven door cracked open. If your house is usually pretty warm, I’m sure just leaving it on the counter would work fine. But sticking it in the oven is always nice because it also protects it from mishaps.

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My dough in it’s warm spot to rise
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Risen dough after a few hours

Once your dough is risen, use 2 forks to punch down the dough by folding it into itself.

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Dough after its been punched down

Then use butter to grease your baking vessels (its important to use butter because it helps to give the outside of your bread a nice crisp). Use your forks to split your dough in two pieces and put them into the greased bowls. Let your dough rise for another 20-30 minutes on your counter. While your dough is rising this time, you can preheat your oven to 425°F. Once you dough has risen, add a few pats of butter to the tops of your dough to melt while your bread is baking.

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Bread after rising for 30 minutes, with butter pats just before putting in oven

Bake bread at 425°F for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375°F and bake for another 15-17 minutes or until golden brown. Once the bread is out of the oven, I wait a couple minutes and then use a knife or spatula to remove the bread from the containers. Then let it cool a bit more before cutting into it.

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I haven’t cooked many other breads, but this one is definitely super easy! I can’t imagine any easier recipe for bread this delicious. Its always a huge crowd pleaser, and never lasts very long in my house. If you’re in the mood to try baking bread, this is a great, easy recipe to start with!  I hope you enjoy it!

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