This past year, we have seen how a global pandemic brought about this moment when everyone seemed to be in their home kitchen baking bread. Specifically sourdough. Myself included. It has become undeniable: taking part in this universal culinary tradition– turning flour and water into flavor, warmth, and sustenance — it matters to people.
In my own bread baking experiences preceding the pandemic and continuing through it, I have sometimes thought to myself that the more complex the preferment is and the more time I invest in the project on the whole, the better the bread will be. In some ways, this is true. A loaf of sourdough with perfect crumb and crust cannot be replicated in a day and without a starter. There are few processes as rewarding in the same way, either. At the same time, you don’t always have three days to make a loaf, and sometimes, you want to break bread the same day you have the inspiration to bake it.
No matter how sophisticated your bread baking is, there is no discounting the value of a solid 1 day quick bread recipe. There are great ones out there, and I think everyone should have at least one on hand that they could make in their sleep. If you are new to bread baking, this is the perfect place to start.
I have two recipes I personally refer back to in a pinch when I want to bring bread over to a friend on the fly, or when I get a carb craving that feels urgent. One is the day bread recipe out of the book Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish. The other I have included below.
The following recipe is magic. Not only does it come together with ease while simultaneously producing impressive, satisfying results, but it has also traveled through so many hands that it is hard to not see it as being particularly extraordinary. The original recipe was given to me by the mother of two of my childhood friends. Her amazing bread was a hallmark of so many of our families get-togethers growing up. I later learned her recipe came from her husband, who was diagnosed with ALS 16 some odd years ago, and who she has been caring for ever since. In some ways, I view this bread as a symbol of her family’s strength and resilience. I’ve never been able to replicate their bread despite having the same recipe, but somehow creating something new, different, and delicious has become part of the beauty of this recipe changing hands. When I lived in a co-op in college, I made this bread all the time. Even after graduating and moving away, this recipe has continued to live on through my friends in that community, morphing into a symbol of our connection to one another. I have since changed my methods for baking this bread a little more after working in a restaurant bakery, and while the original recipe is all but unrecognizable to the one below, I’d like to think that my new recipe is strengthened by the spirit and history of how it came to be.
All three images above use the same general recipe, but with different toppings, and using different kitchen equipment (dutch oven vs loaf pan vs covered loaf pan). I should note that when making the bread in the second and third images, I used 1/4 cup more flour, no sugar, and I didn’t shape the loaf at all. I feel like these details highlight the leeway you have in making a solid loaf using this recipe, even in the face of limited baking equipment and/or experience. It also serves as a great recipe to experiment with (as I do, constantly altering different aspects of the recipe and my techniques to study how it impacts the final product).
Magic Quick Bread Recipe (makes one loaf, takes ~ 2 1/2 hours)
- 1/2 Tbs active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tsp sugar or honey
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 Tbs rye flour (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water. Let sit for 5 min.
In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.
Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and combine with a fork. As the dough comes together, I like to wet my hands in warm water (so they don’t stick to the dough blob) and stretch/ squeeze/ fold the dough around on itself until it is a homogenous sticky smooth blob. Wet your hands as needed to keep them from sticking. This dough can take in the extra water just fine.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes. Perform a series of stretch and folds (stretching the edges of the dough and folding each one back on itself), and then cover and let sit for another 15 min.
After you have performed three sets of stretch and folds in 15 min increments, let the dough sit covered for an hour (more is fine, encouraged even).
Transfer dough to a floured surface and shape into a loaf. If you are not familiar with bread shaping, there are many video tutorials on youtube. You can also simply transfer the dough into a loaf pan (which is what I always used to do before I learned about shaping the dough to build structure in the loaf).
Let the dough proof while heating oven to 500º (I use a dutch oven which I let come to temp in the regular oven). When you can poke the dough and leave an indent that does not spring back quickly, it is ready for baking.
Top with salt, olive oil, poppy seeds, rosemary, or something else delicious if you’d like. (Sometimes I work different additions into the dough itself, like olives)
Score the loaf with a pretty design if you want to, and then place in the oven, covered. If you are using a regular loaf pan, a baking sheet works great as a cover.
Decrease the baking temp to 450º and bake for 25-30min.
Remove the lid and bake for 10-15 more min or until golden.
Remove loaf from oven, transfer to a cooling rack, and take in the glorious aroma as your bread cools.
Break bread with friends if they are around ❤