Rita’s Recipe: Easy Artisan Bread
HOW PEOPLE MADE A LIVING DURING BIBLE DAYS
The time from Abraham to the time of the early church spans a period of about two thousand years. The way people made a living depended upon when and where they lived. Today I’m talking about people who were shepherds and farmers.
Some people were nomads, living in small groups, keeping flocks of sheep and goats, and traveling from place to place in order to feed and protect their animals. Others lived more settled lives, growing crops or providing services to people in towns and urban areas.
Caring for land and animals was widespread. In Genesis 4:2, it talks about how Abel was a shepherd and Cain was a crop farmer.
As I mentioned, shepherds traveled from place to place and survived by keeping herds and flocks of animals (Gen 13.1-3). Some were wandering nomads who lived in tents and had little personal property. They moved from place to place because they were always looking for food and water for their animals.
They survived by eating the meat and drinking the milk produced by their flocks. In spring, they harvested wild greens to eat since they were abundant. They would have also eaten onions, garlic, leeks, beans and other fruits and veggies in season.
When the Israelites settled in Canaan after leaving their life of slavery in Egypt, farming became a more important way of making a living for them. Grains, such as wheat and barley, were used for making bread, and were the most important crop along with beans.
Crop-Growing and Religious Festivals
Growing crops affected the economy and social life of the people. For example, some of the major religious festivals in Israel like the Harvest Festival coordinated with the farming cycle. Also called the Festival of Weeks, it celebrated the wheat harvest in the spring (Exod 23.16). The Festival of Shelters (or Booths) is an autumn holiday for the occasion of the planting and gathering of crops, and the annual harvest.
I can’t help but think that, along with unleavened and flat bread, the farmers and shepherds could have made crusty bread that was baked over high fire in either a hearth or out in the open. Here’s my offering for what I think would have been a wonderful bread to eat. Now the yeast back then had to be wild, not cultivated like what we have today.
RITA’S FAVORITE 5 MINUTE NO KNEAD ARTISAN BREAD
This recipe has been around a few years and was printed first in the New York Times. It really is so easy and hands-on time fooling with the dough is about 5 minutes.
I’ve given detailed instructions. The best pan for this is a heavy Dutch oven (I use my enameled cast iron Le Creuset), stockpot or Pyrex. The pot can be anywhere from 4-7 quart with a lid and it has to be oven safe to 450. Now if your pan is oven safe to 450 but your lid is not, you can make a “lid” by using 4 thicknesses of heavy duty foil and fitting it very tightly around the rim of the pan. That’s important so steam stays in the pan.
- 3 cups all purpose flour, plus bit more for dusting
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast – this is the rapid rise yeast
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt – I use fine sea salt but whatever you have works well
- 1-1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon water
- Flour or cornmeal for dusting (I used cornmeal)
Whisk flour, yeast and salt together. Make a well in the center. Add water and stir with a spatula for about a minute, until blended. That’s all it takes, time wise. It will look wet and real shaggy.
Cover with wrap. Now if you want you can transfer it into another bowl that’s been brushed with olive oil. Put dough in and brush a little olive oil on the top. This just gives it a bit more flavor in my opinion.
Let rise 12-14 hours at room temperature, on counter if you want. It will double in size and still look real wet.
Remove dough – it will actually sort of just pour out of the bowl and look shaggy still. Lay it on the counter that has been dusted with flour.
Try to shape into a ball – the ball will be somewhat flat and still very sticky. Don’t worry. Coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) that has been dusted with cornmeal or flour. Place dough on towel and cover with another towel. Let rise 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.
Now preheat your oven to 450 and WHILE IT’S PREHEATING PUT THE PAN IN WITH THE LID ON. Carefully, with mitts, take the pan out of the oven and remove the lid, again with mitts. Turn the dough over into the pot, bottom side up. Shake the pot if you have to, to distribute the dough but don’t be too careful – it will bake up just fine. Cover and bake 30 minutes.
Remove lid and bake uncovered another 15 minutes, until loaf is golden brown and, if you have a thermometer stick it into the center and it will register 210 degrees when the loaf is done. In my oven this takes about 10 minutes. Serve with plenty of butter.
Tip from Rita’s kitchen:
You can add herbs to the bread, like a teaspoon or so of Italian seasoning.
You can sprinkle wheat germ or poppy seeds on top of the bread before baking if you like.
Rita Nader Heikenfeld writes a weekly syndicated column and blog for the Community Press, appears every Thursday on the Son Rise Morning Show, and is the author of several cookbooks. An adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati, she is Certified Culinary Professional and Certified Modern Herbalist, the Culinary Professional for Jungle Jim’s Eastgate, and a media personality with a cable show and YouTube videos. In 2014 she was inducted into the Escoffier Hall of Fame. She lives “in the sticks” outside Batavia, Ohio with her family, where they heat with wood, raise chickens for eggs, and grow their own produce and herbs. You’ll find all her previous recipes featured on The Catholic Beat here.
Rita’s Bible Foods segment airs on the Son Rise Morning Show every Thursday morning at 7:22 am (rebroadcast Friday at 6:02 am). Tune in to hear her discuss the history behind each recipe and the scripture verses that inspired it. And of course, for cooking tips!
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