The easiest loaf of bread you’ll ever make

Asiagobread1

I tend to shy away from making bread at home. Sure, I’ll make sweet breads such as Oatmeal-strawberry bread or Pumpkin-chocolate chip bread, but a real, hearty bread? I haven’t had much luck with those, and the added challenges that come with being at high altitude tend to make such recipes discouraging. Until I stumbled upon this little gem.

I found it hard to believe that such a delicious-looking loaf of bread Asiagobread2could be made so easily. I had my doubts, but the recipe didn’t require kneading or multiple rounds of rising, so I could try it without being too disappointed if it didn’t work out. That turned out to be a good life decision because, instead of tossing out a failed attempt at bread, I got to devour a successful one.

The first time I made it, I added a chopped head of roasted garlic and some minced rosemary right before shaping it into a ball. I didn’t chop the rosemary finely enough, a mistake I won’t repeat. The flavor was good, but not quite what I wanted. The second time I made this bread, I decided to throw in some cheese. Asiago is my favorite cheese for breads because it holds together well. I prefer the Asiago version, but I noticed the blogger of the recipe also has a cranberry-orange version that I may have to test in the near future.

For those of you who worry your home may be too cold for the dough to properly rise, try this little trick, which was shared with me by a former coworker: turn your oven to the warm setting. Once your oven has warmed and you’ve mixed the dough, turn the oven off and put the plastic wrap-covered bowl of dough in the oven. It works like a charm and gives bread dough a better chance of reacting as expected.

Many Dutch oven instructions advise against heating the pot while empty. Mine carries a similar warning, but it has been OK both times I’ve done it. I put my pot in when I turn the oven on to preheat so it gradually warms with the oven, and I take it out as soon as the oven has preheated. I’ve never done the full 30 minutes, just as a precaution.

The moist inside and beautiful crust have made this my new favorite bread recipe. What type of variations will you come up with? Post yours in the comments.

IngredientsAsiagobread3
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 cup asiago cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast. Add water and stir until a shaggy mixture forms (mixture will be loose and sticky; this is what you want). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12-18 hours (up to 24).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a cast-iron Dutch oven with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the dough. Meanwhile, pour the risen dough onto a heavily floured surface (mixture will be sticky) and lightly shape into a round loaf.

Remove hot pot from the oven and carefully set in the dough. Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes. Then, remove the lid and bake an additional 10-15 minutes. Carefully remove bread from oven and from pot and place on a cooling rack.

Dutch oven delights turn into cold weather classics

soup2

My best friend gave me a Dutch oven for Christmas. I’ve seen dozens of recipes I’d like to try and have pinned on Pinterest, but now I can actually try them. Since I’ve already used it for a few different recipes, I’ve decided that January will be Dutch oven month on my blog.

The temperature in Tahoe has been dropping to a single digit on a regular basis during the past month or two, which has put me in the mood for hot, healthy food. While this first recipe doesn’t require the use of a Dutch oven, I wanted to test its stovetop capability. The instructions for mine say it shouldn’t be put on high heat, so I wanted to see whether I could get anything to boil on a lower setting.

About six years ago, I clipped this recipe for White Bean and Rosemary Soup from O magazine. It has since become one of my favorite go-to recipes when I want to make soup. One tip I’d like to offer is to chop the rosemary as small as possible. Getting a larger piece in the middle of the soup is annoying. The croutons are good, too, but when I’m only cooking for myself, I opt for a piece of toast instead.

I recently attended an outdoor concert in the area and was an icicle when I returned home. It was so nice to have a pot of soup ready to heat up to help me defrost. It was just what I wanted.

Croutons
2 whole heads garlic
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt , plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 loaf unsliced whole wheat bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice off tops of garlic heads so the cloves are just exposed. Rub each head with 1 teaspoon olive oil; wrap loosely in foil. Roast 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven (but leave oven on); let garlic cool until comfortable to touch. Squeeze cloves from the heads into a small bowl; mash with a fork; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine half the roasted garlic with 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Add bread and toss until well coated. Place bread on a baking sheet and bake 20 minutes, turning once or twice, until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside. soup3

Soup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch coins
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) white beans, drained, rinsed and drained again
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

To make soup: In a large saucepan, heat butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth and remaining half of garlic and bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook 20 minutes, until carrots are very tender. Add drained beans and rosemary; cook 10 more minutes. With an immersion blender or in a food processor fitted with knife blade, puree half the soup until smooth. Stir to combine. Serve in bowls topped with croutons and drizzled with remaining olive oil.