I made bread! Good bread. Bread that looks, smells, and even tastes like real bread! And I owe this miracle to my friend Jackie, who posted a link on Facebook today: Five Minutes a Day for Fresh-Baked Bread. The article was very interesting to read - the authors have taken bread-making to its bare essentials, for those of us who are just no good at making bread the way our mamas used to do it. No kneading or punching required, just mix 4 ingredients together, let it rise once, and then store the dough in your fridge and bake a fresh hunk of bread whenever you darn well please!
I followed their instructions more or less, although I did tweak the amounts a little bit:
1 1/2 tbsp. yeast
1 tbsp. kosher salt
3 1/2 c. water (I started with 3 c. but it looked too dry after I added the flour, so I put an extar 1/2 c. and it looked perfect)
6 c. flour (I used 2 c. whole wheat and 4 c. all-purpose flour)
Put the yeast, salt, and water in a large bowl. Add the flour and mix until just until it forms a wet dough. Don't knead it! Set it on the counter to rise for about 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap (don't put it in an air-tight container or gas will build up) and put in the fridge. It's recommended to refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours before you bake it. When you're ready to bake, put lots of flour on a sheet of parchment paper and on your hands. Grab a hunk of dough and form a ball by pulling gently on the dough and tucking it underneath. Set the ball of dough on the floured parchment paper and let it rise for 40 minutes. After 20 minutes, preheat the oven to 450 F and put a baking stone on the middle rack and a broiler pan or rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack. After the 40 minutes has passed, transfer the dough to the baking stone and pour 1 c. hot water into the broiler pan. Bake for 30 minutes.
Apparently the dough can stay in your fridge for a couple weeks, so you can rip off some dough every morning and have piping hot bread an hour later! This is brilliant. And like I said, it tasted like real bread!! I'm so proud of myself - thank you Jackie!