By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D.
Hunkering down and following the advice to self-quarantine during the Coronavirus pandemic means people are spending much of their time cooped up at home binging on Netflix and wondering what to do to ease the boredom. If this is the case, why not turn to baking bread and sharing the love?
Researchers have found, giving away the fruits—or, perhaps, loaves of bread—of your labor is beneficial. They even cite evidence that shows the act of creating something and giving it as a gift or providing it as sustenance for others feels good and can lead to more positive psychological functioning.
“Many people find joy and calmness in baking bread, because it is very tactile and typically commands your full attention, primarily when you use repetitive motions with your hands,” says Kimberly Lou, author of Becoming Who You’re Meant to Be. “Because of this, it can have a therapeutic effect that calms the central nervous system and connects to the part of the brain that accesses creativity and imagination,” she says. “In addition, the texture, smell, and taste of the ingredients while making bread stimulate the senses, tapping into the pleasure senses of the brain.”
So gather your ingredients and utensils and begin making some homemade bread. And while you’re at it, why not make enough to give to your neighbors? There’s nothing more comforting than a fresh loaf of homemade bread using the foolproof recipes below. Instant yeast, bread flour, all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour and an oven are all you really need.
• 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
• 2 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 4-1/2 to 5 cups bread flour
• 1 teaspoon cornmeal
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add salt, sugar and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Shape into 12-in.-long loaves.
Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450° degrees. Sprinkle loaves with cornmeal. With a sharp knife, make four shallow slashes across the top of each loaf. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Makes two loaves.
CRUSTY WHITE BREAD
• 1-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
• 1-3/4 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
• 3-1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 tablespoon cornmeal or additional flour
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Using a rubber spatula, stir in 3-1/2 cups flour and salt to form a soft, sticky dough. Do not knead. Cover and let rise at room temperature 1 hour.
Stir down dough (dough will be sticky). Turn onto a floured surface; with floured hands pat into a 9-in. square. Fold square into thirds, forming a 9×3-in. rectangle. Fold rectangle into thirds, forming a 3-in. square. Place in a large greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise at room temperature until almost doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch down dough and repeat folding process. Return dough to bowl; refrigerate, covered, overnight.
Grease the bottom of a disposable foil roasting pan with at least 4-in.-high sides; dust pan with cornmeal. Turn dough onto a floured surface. Knead gently 6-8 times; shape into a 6-in. round loaf. Place into prepared pan; dust top with remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Cover pan and let rise at room temperature until dough expands to a 7-1/2-in. loaf, about 1-1/4 hours.
Preheat oven to 500° degrees. Using a sharp knife, make a slash (1/4 in. deep) across top of loaf. Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake on lowest oven rack 25 minutes.
Reduce oven setting to 450° degrees. Remove foil; bake bread until deep golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Remove loaf to a wire rack to cool. Makes one loaf.
CHEESY ITALIAN BREAD
• 1 package (1/4 ounces) active dry yeast
• 1-1/4 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
• 3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon garlic salt
• 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, garlic salt, and cheese. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Shape each half into a 14-in. loaf. Place on a greased baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Brush loaves with water. Make three diagonal slashes about 1/2 in. deep with a very sharp knife in each loaf.
Fill a 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan with 1 in. of hot water and place on the bottom oven rack. Bake bread at 400° degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool. Makes two loaves.