The Provident Professor

Literary Finance and Personal References

Provident Bread

I know I’m far from the first person to make this insightful observation, but good bread is expensive. Heck, mediocre bread from the grocery store is kind of expensive. The good stuff from the bakery is like four bucks a loaf, which adds up quick.

Fortunately (kind of) for the Provident household, we do not have a bakery in our tiny town. And since bread is not so fantastic for the waistline (plus, I prefer to get my grains via beer), I tend to just not buy bread.

But sometimes you want a sandwich. Or a colleague gives you some homemade jam as a housewarming present. What’s an aspiringly provident person to do?

It doesn’t get any better than homemade bread with homemade jam

You bake the stuff yourself. It’s not hard. Start with this classic New York Times recipe for long-rise, no-knead bread. It’s dead simple and pretty tasty.

The one piece of equipment you need to make really great no-knead bread is a Dutch oven, preferably enameled. You don’t need a fancy Le Creuset, though: Lodge makes a great enameled Dutch oven. And if you’re worried about your enamel cracking when you heat the empty pot up (it’s never happened to me, but it is something that Le Creuset warns about–another reason to go the cheap route), you can always use a well-seasoned cast iron Dutch oven.

One way or another, you want the heat-retaining density of cast iron. That’s what makes for such a great crust. In general, cast iron is the greatest cooking material known to man, but that’s a post for another time.

Once you’ve made a few loaves of no-knead bread, one of two things will happen. Either you’ll decide that you’re perfectly happy with this easy and basic recipe, or you’ll head down the bread-baking rabbit hole. (You could also decide to quit baking bread, but I’m not going to consider that improvident possibility).

If you head down the rabbit hole, you might consider making the jump to sourdough. You’ll need to either make your own starter or procure one from someone. Provident household bread is baked with a decades-old sourdough starter we received from a friend, who got his from his grandmother. Both the starter and the grandmother traveled the world in the mid-twentieth century, and this globe-trotting history makes the resulting bread taste even better.

Once you’ve got yourself a sourdough starter, the possibilities are endless. You can begin with this New York Times recipe for sourdough no-knead bread. It’s what I used to bake this loaf:

Next, work in whole wheat flour. Or make English muffins, or pancakes. The possibilities are endless. You’ll never drop $50 on brunch again when you can make your own sourdough pancakes.

Have a go-to bread recipe? Maybe one that’s as life-altering as Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread? Please, please share the wealth in the comments.

2 Comments

  1. Drool, drool, drool. I will have to look into a Dutch oven. Or see if I can swipe my mom’s. Sounds like this will be perfect for fall!

    • Prof. Provident

      August 9, 2016 at 3:35 am

      I can’t endorse the Dutch oven highly enough! It makes great bread and can’t be beat for making soups and stews. We have several and use them at least once a week.

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