I love to bake. Some of my earliest memories are of pulling the stool over to the pull out cutting board and helping mom knead and roll out Honey Whole Wheat Bread even though the stool barely helped me reach the rolling pin. I’ve been visiting grandma’s “Gingerbread House” ever since I can remember, playing cops and robbers on the Big Wheels with the cousins, and then coming in for either our regular weekly Sunday dinner, or Thanksgiving Dinner. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
I’ve been raised in a Whiting lifestyle where you don’t ever buy store bought cookies because you can make twice as many yourself for the same cost. They would taste better too. And you don’t ever call the plumber to fix a leak, because Grandpa can tinker with it (which usually ends up in far too many trips to the local hardware store and bigger leaks down the road, but he’ll tinker with those too). So I’ve grown up in a long line of “do-it-yourselvers”, and a line of hard workers. I don’t claim to be all that, but baking has helped me get a start.
After a successful Bake Sale fundraiser for my brother’s non-profit organization, Ryan’s Lion, a neighbor who bought a loaf of Lemon Rosemary Artisan Bread said she would pay me to bring her some every week. Deal or no deal? Deal! So after a few weeks of this, mom saw a sign for a new local farmers market that would be starting up in our little town that summer. “Why not try selling your bread there and saving a little money?” Easier said than done, my friends. After we did our research, we had a list of requirements to be able to sale baked goods out of my home, and the phone number for a state kitchen inspector. Lucky for me, we have a second kitchen in the basement. So I swept it up, got my food handler’s permit, started collecting my favorite recipes, got an “investment” from my parents for my first ingredients, and called the inspector for a Cottage Kitchen Permit. A few weeks later, I was baking bread. Lots of it.
Forty loaves later, we turned the ovens off, got a few hours of sleep, then woke up early and headed down for our first of many weekends at the farmer’s market. It was a total success. I sold out within the first two hours, and went home with a chunk of change for my saving account.
“Oh the places you’ll go…” From there I’ve learned lots of new things as a teenage entrepreneur and connected with a lot of amazing people that I couldn’t have any other way. This and the years around Grandma’s dining room table have been the experiences that taught me cooking can bring people from all walks of life together. And I think that’s the coolest thing. It’s not just the baking that I love, its’ the experiences that come with it. Now I’m tall enough to reach the rolling pin, and I can do it all by myself.
With that, I want to share one of Janna’s Bakery’s original recipes that I love: Sun-Dried Tomato and Lemon Basil Artisan Bread. With Mozzarella, and if you promise not to tell, bacon. Yup. Bacon.
- 6 C bread flour
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 1 C sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 2 T fresh lemon basil (or 1 T Italian seasoning, 1 T oregano)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of ½ a lemon (about 3 Tablespoons)
- 2 C mozzarella cheese
- 3 C water (room temperature)
- ¾ C crumpled bacon (optional)
- Combine dry ingredients
- Put sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest and juice, and seasonings in food processor. Grind until fine texture.
- Add tomato mix, cheese, and water to the dry ingredients. Mix until combined.
- Place dough in well greased bowl with enough room to double.
- Cover tightly with a piece of plastic wrap.
- Let raise in warm/room temperature place for 12-18 hours.
- Cut dough in half and shape into two loaves on a well-floured pastry cloth.
- Place La Crueset/cloche in oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees, allowing pans to heat as well.
- Drop shaped loaves into ungreased pans and bake for 30 minutes at 450 degrees.
*this makes two loaves*
First, mix you’re dry ingredients together:
- 6 cups of flour
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of yeast (I use instant, but if you don’t have any, just dissolve it in water first)
Next, choose your flavors. This is why I LOOOOVE this recipe. You need the first three ingredients and some water, but after than you can put just about anything in this to make any type of bread. Seriously. Anything.
For this I used:
- 1 C Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Zest of one lemon, lemon juice (Confession: I don’t really measure for this recipe. Zest of one lemon and squeezing about one half of the lemon should be about right.)
- 2 tablespoons of any seasonings– I prefer to use fresh Lemon Basil, but I didn’t have any on hand this time. So I threw in dried basil and Italian seasoning, about 1 tablespoon each, or to taste depending on the strength of your seasonings.
- 2 Cups of mozzarella cheese
Throw it all in the food processor for a good consistency and to blend the flavors.
- tomato past stuff (about 1 cup)
- 2 C of mozzarella cheese
- 1 C of water
- 3/4 C crumpled bacon
Personally, I don’t love bacon in it, but my mom thinks it’s hilarious and awesome. And everyone loves an excuse to put bacon in everything.
It should give you something like this:
The dough should be a sloppy mess that holds a little shape, but definitely not stiff, and should be really sticky. Unlike most breads, the sides of your mixing bowl won’t be clean when you’re done. You might need to add a little more flour if it’s really runny, and you don’t need to knead. Hah. No need to knead. Sometimes I’m really glad English is my first language.
Throw it a well-greased bowl with plenty of room for it to double.
- Let it sit in a warmish place (kitchen counter or pantry not refrigerator) for 12-18 hours.
When it’s done raising it fills my huge silver bowls about 2/3 full. I’ve let it raise as few as eight hours and it turned out ok, and as many as 18 and it was still great. Overnight is easiest.
Preheat your oven to 450 F, and put your cloches in while it preheats. I’ve never tried it in a dutch oven, but I think it would turn out pretty similar if you don’t have a cloche/ La Creuset. I have a stone cloche and a ceramic one, but I put them in the same oven together, and the results are exactly the same.
While the oven preheats:
- Shape on a WELL-floured pastry cloth.
The dough is still really sticky, and if you dump it straight on your counter, they form this inseparable friendship, and you’ll have more dough on the counter than you will in the oven and a really big mess by the time you’re done. Trust me, I know. Cut the dough in half and roll it in your hands until it forms a ball. There really isn’t a technique for this, just make it look like a round loaf. Flour your hands before you touch it.
Pull one cloche out of the oven at a time and hurry and drop one loaf in there. No need for greasing or corn meal, just drop em’ in there. Careful, they are very hot (450 degrees type of hot) and you don’t want to lose a lot of heat while you do it. Keep the oven door shut while you move things around.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 450 F
Another great thing about this recipe, they are almost always done after 30 minutes. The top should be a little crispy and hard, and the shape firm.
Drum roll please….. this is the best part.
TAH DAH! Isn’t it pretty? The best part is it self decorates and you don’t have to do any slashing or cutting the top to make it took like you are a master artisan baker. I patted a light layer of flour on top before it baked to make it look prettier, which is why it’s still covered in flour.