Photos by Sara Nasr.
I was introduced to breadmaking about three years ago when my mom dove into it and began making Iranian and ketogenic breads. I plunged in right after her, curious about the possibilities offered by breadmaking.
As a first generation Iranian-American, I grew up in a community that values food and sharing it. We have sayings like “daste shoma dard nakone,” translating to “may your hands not hurt,” to show our sincerest thanks when someone decides to spend their time making food for another person.
As much of the U.S. approaches two months in quarantine, people have been looking to cooking and baking to fill their free time. And why wouldn’t you? Now is the perfect time to introduce yourself to a hobby that yields a delicious result.
I started making bread on a regular basis last summer after realizing how much time I would have as a fourth-year enjoying the last drops of unbridled college freedom.
I’ve also enjoyed sharing bread with my friends, knowing I may have been able to provide them with their first meal of the day or given them a break from hours of studying.
At the time, I didn’t know we’d be spending our last quarter at UC Santa Cruz in isolation. But I’m grateful to have picked up a hobby that doubles as a healthy coping mechanism during this time.
Food connects us all and is a reason to bring people together. Making bread has allowed me to relax and let my worries and cares slip away, if only for a little while. I wanted to share this easy recipe to bring us all just a little bit closer at a time when people may feel furthest from each other.
Ingredients for either one loaf, two small batards or any other shape or form you’d like. Live it up!:
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon yeast (I know it may be hard to find some yeast, so if supply is wiped out from all the stores in your area and websites, you can do some digging on how to make bread yeast at home. Or, see if a neighbor would be willing to share some.)
- 2 cups bread flour (You can use bread flour or all-purpose flour, check out this post for some information about what to do with other kinds of flours.)
- 1 teaspoon sugar (I like using brown sugar but any sugar works, even honey.)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- (optional) Cinnamon and/or other spices (Sometimes I add in the contents of a tea bag.)
- 2-3 handfuls chopped nuts (I use walnuts, but do what you please!)
- 2-3 handfuls chopped dried fruit (I like to use dried cranberries, but you can try frozen fruits, dried fruits or fresh fruit if you’re feeling wild. My friend tried this recipe with dried hibiscus flowers, the world is your oyster!)
- (optional) Cornmeal
1. In a small bowl, pour in water and add yeast. Stir gently and let it sit off to the side.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and whatever spices you want (if you’re using honey as the sugar replacement, add it in the next step). Whisk it all together.
3. Add the water and yeast mixture to the big bowl. Before mixing it all together, put in your nuts and dried fruit. Start working it all together. As the dough combines, use your hands to continue to incorporate everything, and move the dough onto a flat work surface to continue kneading. It’ll need about 10 minutes of kneading, or when a film of gluten starts to appear and it doesn’t feel sticky anymore.
4. Once everything is well incorporated and kneaded, let it sit in a warm place for about 3-6 hours, or until the dough doubles in size, for bulk fermentation.
5. Now, you can shape the dough however you like, just make sure your baking sheet or pan is lined with parchment paper or dusted with cornmeal so the dough doesn’t stick to the bottom.
6. After shaping, let the dough rest for 20 minutes with a damp kitchen towel or some other covering. Preheat your oven to 480° F.
7. When it’s done resting, dust the top of the dough with flour and slash the tops with a sharp knife, a blade or a bread lame (whatever you’ve got).
8. Turn down the oven to 450° F, and put your dough in. Give it about 15 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
9. Take it out of the oven and let it cool. Or break it open immediately and slather on whatever you like — cheeses, jams, butters, you name it.
10. If you plan on eating the bread within a few days, you can keep it wrapped in some aluminum foil and keep it out of the refrigerator. Otherwise, you can cut it and leave it in a resealable bag in the freezer, and warm it up whenever you want.
Ready, set, dough.