I love homemade bread ... I could make a meal of it. (Come to think of it, I probably have!)
The heavenly aroma while it's baking ...
Cutting that first, still warm slice ...
Spreading on real butter ... or spoonfuls of homemade jam or apple butter.
Yes ... James Bear was right when he said,
"Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods;
and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts."
And so, for some unknown reason, I pulled out a clay baker we received as a wedding present ages ago. I truly think I used it only a couple times, then tucked it away in the back of the cupboard.
I began thinking ... would it be useful for baking bread? I pulled it out, dusted it off, and began looking for bread recipes. In no time at all, this was the result ...
I was so surprised at how terrific it was! The recipe was oh-so simple, the crust baked up crispy and golden, the inside was soft ... just waiting for a pat of butter!
Ta-da ... new life given to an old wedding present. Now how often does that happen? Hmmm, and now I'm wondering just what else can I prepare in it!
This bread recipe (from RomertopfDirect.com) is a keeper if you happen to have a clay baker ... and if not, you just may want to consider getting one! Here's a link filled with lots of tips and how-tos ... like the importance of soaking the clay pot in water before baking.
Give it a try ... a friend told me she found a clay baker at her local thrift shop for $5! A worthwhile investment indeed.
The Perfect Loaf
1 cup warm water (105 to 115 F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Stir warm water, yeast and sugar in large mixer bowl.
Let stand 5 to 10 minutes, or until foamy. Add 2 cups flour, salt and oil. With mixer fitted with dough hook, mix on low until blended, then mix on medium speed for 5 minutes until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough onto floured surface and knead, adding more flour as needed.
Knead about 15 to 20 minutes until dough is smooth and springy and small bubbles form just under the surface. Place dough in greased bowl, turn to coat top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Soak bottom of the clay baker in water for about 20 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Generously grease sides and bottom of clay baker.
When dough has doubled, punch down and shape into a loaf, place in clay baker. Let stand, covered with plastic wrap or wax paper, for 30 to 45 minutes or until dough nearly reaches the top of the cooker.
Soak top of clay baker for 15 minutes while dough rises the second time. When dough has risen, use a sharp razor blade or knife to cut 2 or 3 diagonal slashes across the top of dough (about 1/2-inch deep). Drain lid of baker, pat dry and grease. Place covered clay baker in cold oven, set oven temperature to 475 F and bake 45 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until top is brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.