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The Upper Crust

May 20, 2011

First of all, the dear British woman in whose house I am staying has the organizational skills of a cauliflower, as she herself has proclaimed. She keeps her floral incense sticks, parmesan cheese and steak knives all in the same cabinet. See for yourself:

Nevertheless, she has a gas stove which works perfectly well, and so cooking and baking are still feasible.

When eating on a budget, as I am this summer, I realize just how easy it is to make good food without paying a lot. What is some of the best food? Homemade bread. I love bread, and I love simple recipes. Simple bread recipes? I get transported to a warm, starchy heaven. When I found this recipe, I got up immediately and made it.

It only takes four ingredients. The first three are yeast, salt and water.

For one loaf, I used:

1-1/2 tsp. yeast

1-1/8 tsp. salt

3/4 cup lukewarm water

Doesn’t that look appetizing? But wait, it gets better! Add 1-5/8 cup flour:

And you get this:

Yeast, salt, water and flour! How much simpler can you get?

Let it rise at room temperature for at least two hours, and no more than five. Use this as an opportunity to watch a few episodes of the best TV show ever:

David Tennant is the best.

Or make some microwave peanut brittle:

Or do both. I did both.

After two hours, the dough should be a little sticky; that means you’ll get a nice, crispy crust. Here is where I got a little fancy, though. First, where the Times tells you something about a baking stone, I just oiled and floured a pizza pan. I didn’t do too much to the dough–just stretched and shaped it until it looked nice and then let it rise another 45 minutes. Then just before I baked it, I brushed the loaf with sesame oil and cut a few nice, diagonal slashes across the top.

Start the oven preheating to 450F, and after a couple minutes, put in the loaf and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Eat it hot, with cheese or oil and spices, and enjoy the rewards of not too much labor.

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