Ever since I realized just how powerfully preservatives affect us from the inside out, I’ve made it a goal to make as many basic staples straight from our own kitchen—starting from an age-old favorite, bread. Now that Selah constantly asks questions like, “is this healthy?”, I’ve made it a point to include the girls in our baking endeavors, if occasion allows. They feel the texture, they experience the colorful process, and ultimately, they appreciate the nourishment of their own labor of love.
I believe that children take pride in what they create just as much as we do. The few simple ingredients coming together while they create ineffable magic—or scientific based experiments, whatever you might call them—stir up a sense of awe and confidence in themselves, in the food they’re about to enjoy. And that’s my hope in baking something as simple as rustic bread with them.
Although there is no best way to make a good loaf of rustic bread, this is by far my favorite. It is nearly fool-proof thanks to the addition of tangzhong, a paste made of water and flour which is then cooked to a glue like consistency. This tangzhong provides an incredible crumb elasticity while improving the tenderness all the way out to the crust. Making your own loaf of bread can be such a satisfying endeavor, and one that I hope every home cook can learn to enjoy.
Simple Rustic Bread with Tangzhong
Makes two round loaves
Ingredients for tangzhong
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
Using a small sauce pan over low-medium fire, whisk the flour and water constantly until it comes together into a glue-like paste. Set aside to cool, until ready to use.
Ingredients for dough
1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1 tbsp sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp salt
more flour for dusting
Dissolve the yeast and sugar with warm water in a small bowl. Give it a stir and let it sit for about 2 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, stir the flour and salt. Pour in the yeast mixture along with the tangzhong paste, and slowly work your way in the dough with your hands. You don’t have to knead a whole lot, let alone overwork the dough. Just simply make sure there are no dry clumps and that nothing stays untouched by the wet ingredients and that it comes together somewhat smoothly.
Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rise at room temperature for one hour or until doubled in size. ***see notes for storing overnight
Preheat oven at 425 F degrees. Dust two baking sheets with flour.
Cut the dough into two equal pieces, form into a ball, and place them on the dusted baking sheets. Let them rise for about 15 minutes. Score them with a sharp serrated knife. Dust the tops with more flour, cover slightly with tin foil, and bake for approximately 30 minutes covered. Then uncover them and bake for another 30-35 minutes uncovered.
***If storing overnight: After the initial one hour rise with a damp towel, take the towel off and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge overnight. The next day, take it out leaving it covered in wrap for about an hour or until it softens up and expands in size. Then it’s ready to go to step 4.