My friends' eyes typically roll backwards when I tell them that I made another loaf of homemade bread. I remain perplexed as to why bread either seems to difficult or time consuming that it takes on the illusion of being something "other people do." Some of my favorite breads take minutes of actual cooking time, granted with the use of a very old and almost defunct Kitchen Aide Stand Mixer. (I have taken to entering any contest where one is offered just because I am not sure what to do on the morning that I wake up and it is dead!) Bread is so perfect to make in the winter as we are often in the house throughout parts of the day, making it that much easier to punch the bread down, put it in a pan, etc. But one of the myth's of good bread is that it is finicky. If the dough rises a bit more or less it will still survive! I love that it is one of the easiest foods for my toddlers to make with me. I love that it fills us up all week. I love that it freezes so well.
While I have about 10 different bread books, my hand's down favorite is Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. He takes artisanal breads and has found a way to write the most simple and clear recipes for home cooks. Better still, as many of his recipes use an overnight chill in the refrigerator, they are actually great for parents. My sons and I will mix it up the night before. Then in the morning, they help me to shape the loaves. By lunch, they are gorgeous and ready.
I have had success with all his recipes: his pizza dough, his bagels, his ciabatta and his semolina bread. This weekend I tried his pain de campagne and met with rave reviews from the whole family. By using just a little bit of rye flour it added a lovely earthy taste. But the bread itself was so tender, that the whole family couldn't stop eating it.
But the bread I turn to almost every weekend is his "Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire." On Friday night, I mix cornmeal with multigrain cereal in a bowl of water. I also put the rest of the dry ingredients (except for the yeast) in the mixer. The next morning, I just throw the cereal mixture in the mixer with yeast honey and warm water and mix it until the dough just comes together. "
The bread, which is also made with the leftover rice that I always have around, is completely tender and smooth-despite being a multigrain bread. In other words, it is perfect for finicky children that don't love oats in their bread. It toasts up beautifully and makes heavenly grilled cheeses on the George Foreman.
Finally, if you are still daunted, Peter Reinhart recently came out with a new book: Artisan Breads Ever Day. I am not lucky enough to own yet, but a peak at a bookstore made me confident that it has the same easy techniques and clear directions, along with modified ways to make bread even easier for busy people. In fact, if you want to try out one of his recipes, just check out his bagel recipe at Leite's Culinaria. If you are still interested, you can check out last year's post about the joy of baking bagels with kids.