I was hankering for some crunchy bread, but was too lazy to make a starter the night before for say, Garlic Turmeric Baguettes. I did a quick search and found this recipe on King Arthur Flour’s website (https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/hearth-bread-recipe) which fit the bill.
As usual, I changed a few things. I added spelt flour, turmeric, and sesame seeds for one. A subtler change is the yeast. The original recipe uses instant yeast, but I always have active dry yeast. The difference being that active dry yeast has larger granules which need to be dissolved in water before using, while instant yeast has a fine texture and can be mixed right into dry ingredients. If you are using instant yeast, you can skip the proofing step and just add all the ingredients at once.
I’m a big fan of this bread. I made it for the first time last weekend, and I am currently making it again. It’s a dense loaf that is perfect with hearty soups. We ate it with homemade hummus, made cinnamon toast, garlic bread, and just ate it as is. And since it’s a double loaf recipe, we didn’t run out too quickly!
I texted my dad a picture of the final loaves because he also enjoys cooking. The next time we spoke, he raved on and on about how good the bread looked. Finally, I said, “Dad, is that what you want me to bake for you this holiday?” Obviously the answer was yes. I suppose it’s no mystery where I come by my love of food. (Side note: as a kid, like 5 or so, my dad had a food scrapbook. Yes, you read that right. Pictures torn from magazines mostly. I would LOVE to see what kind of foods he put in there, especially since it would have been the late 1950/early 1960s.)
I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Happy baking!
Country Hearth Bread
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 cups lukewarm water (not over 110°F)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups spelt flour
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
- cornmeal or semolina, for sprinkling on the pan
Gather together all of your ingredients.
In the bowl of your stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, mix the water, sugar, and yeast. Allow to sit for 1 to 3 minutes.
Add the salt, spelt flour, the smaller amount of all purpose flour, and the turmeric and sesame seeds, if using. Mix thoroughly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, add more flour if necessary. I used the stir setting on my mixer until my dough was mostly cohesive.
If using a stand mixer, set to speed two and knead for 7 minutes. If kneading by hand, place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Give the dough a one minute rest, then knead for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Place dough into a greased bowl, turning over once to coat the top. Cover with a cloth napkin and place in a draft free area to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in size. I usually put my dough in my unheated oven to rise.
Gently deflate the dough. Using a bench knife or similar, cut the dough in half. Shape into two oval loaves or two longer, thinner loaves.
Liberally sprinkle the cornmeal or semolina on a baking sheet. Place the loaves on the baking sheet. Cover loaves with a cloth napkin and allow to rise* for another 45 minutes, they should be noticeably puffy. As you near the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
*Since you will using the oven while the dough is still rising, I do not recommend placing the loaves in the oven for the second rise. The shift in temperature when you move the loaves out of the oven to begin the preheat will more than likely cause them to deflate somewhat.
Right before baking, slash the tops of the loaves three or more times diagonally, you want to use a sharp knife so it doesn’t drag the dough. Then brush or spray them generously with lukewarm water. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until crust is golden.
Remove the loaves from the oven, take them off the pan, then return them to the oven, placing them directly on the rack. Turn off your oven and crack the door open several inches. Let the loaves cool in the cooling oven; this creates a great crusty exterior.
Yield: 2 loaves