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A daily bread recipe, with yeast and variations, for those who haven’t hit Peak Artisan yet

A basic daily bread recipe can be made with whole wheat flour and into different shapes, including pizza.
(Amy Scattergood/Los Angeles Times)

If Instagram is any indicator, a tub of sourdough starter has replaced bitcoin as our new-world-order currency.

But for sequestered would-be bakers who haven’t hit Peak Artisan quite yet, a very simple loaf of bread, made with a packet of yeast and a few cups of all-purpose flour, may be more useful. Baking bread at home is a deeply restorative activity, warming the kitchen and the day in ways we need right now, as well as providing some basic food. Break bread, make toast, even pull a pizza out of the oven.

I wrote down a recipe for a loaf of daily bread 14 years ago, and it still works just fine. It’s the basic bread my mother made half a century ago in Iowa, with wheat germ to give some flavor to the cups of unbleached white flour — a trick master baker Nancy Silverton also used, back when it was harder to find good stone-ground flour.

When I made the recipe again the other day, I updated it a bit, though you wouldn’t have to if you still like the soothing effect of kneading dough. I don’t knead dough anymore (thank you Jim Lahey). Instead, I mixed it in the bowl with my hands, which haven’t been this clean since cooking school, until just incorporated, then covered the dough (no extra olive oil needed) with a towel and let it proof for 30 minutes.

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Every half an hour of the two-hour rising time, I folded the dough, again with my hands, lifting it over itself maybe six times, then covered it again for another 30-minute proof. This builds the structure of the dough and replaces the kneading (and primes you for moving to sourdough). I used 2¼ teaspoons of active dry yeast rather than a packet of instant, but that would work too. And since I didn’t need extra flour for conventional kneading, I used only a total of 4¾ cups.

If you’d like a more whole grain approach, switch out half of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat. And if you don’t have wheat germ, replace it with whole wheat flour; if you do have the stuff, add it anyway, as it’ll boost the flavor. Another note: Whole grain flour is usually thirstier than unbleached white flour, so I added maybe 1/2 cup less of the whole wheat flour to the mixture: If you’re not kneading the dough, it will be kind of shaggy, which is as it should be.

After the two hours of rising, you can form the dough into whatever suits you. The basic recipe makes two loaves, shaped as a round boule or a longer batard.

A note: If you don’t have a fancy bread basket, make your own by lining a colander with a flour-lined kitchen cloth. Or take each portion of dough, spread it across an oiled sheet pan, and make pizza. If you have marinara sauce, mozzarella and pepperoni handy, well, good for you. I used what I had, which was sauteed chard, chevre, Parmesan — and about half a jar of spicy chili crisp, since I’ve been putting that on everything for about two weeks now.

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Daily bread is whatever you need it to be.


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