In recent weeks I’ve been reading an eye-opening book that my Dad suggested. The War of Art is not a self-help book, or an instruction manual. It is an illumination for writers, artists and anyone who ever wanted to do something and then promptly talked themselves out of it. Steven Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and Gates of Fire talks about the writer and artist’s everyday “resistance” which keeps you from sitting down and writing, or painting, or doing whatever it is that your soul really wants you to do. In the last section of his book, Pressfield writes about living and doing simply for its own sake. He asks the basic question about your actions: If you were the last person on earth, would you still do it? Meaning, if I were the last person on earth would I still sit down every day or so and write up a new blog post? Would I still bake? (Assuming I had a mountain of food, as I am, the last person on earth).
I thought about this long and hard last night. I have been having a particularly fun time with my Baby, sleeping in half hour stretches day and night, my house is a disaster, and I live in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language. So what did I want to do, more than anything I could possibly muster in my imagination? Bake some bread. I wanted to measure out the ingredients. Mix the dough with my hands. Watch it rise. And then eat it for dinner. I wanted to create something from nothing, and not just for the end result. But for the process too.
I feel the same way about this blog. Sometimes in the Social Media universe it is easy to get caught up in numbers of page views, subscribers, who follows who on Twitter and Facebook. But if I were the last person on earth, I would still sit down and talk about my Baby, and what an incredible honor it is to be his Mom. And I’d probably share a recipe or two, but mostly just write for the sake of writing. And I would still bake bread.
I’ve shared this recipe in other places on this blog, here, and here. But I wanted it to have a place on its own. I make a big batch of this dough almost every week, and on average, bake a loaf a day. It’s filling and tastes good and doesn’t involve crazy ingredients or preparation.
The Everyday Loaf
Recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Makes enough dough for 3-4 decent sized loaves. Keep loosely covered in the refrigerator for a week-10 days. This tastes better as the dough sits in the fridge.
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast (any granulated type will do, including active dry)
1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher or Sea Salt (This is an estimate. I often only use 1 tablespoon and it’s plenty salty for me)
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. The dough will look shaggy and wet. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm place (your counter top in the summer is fine, an oven turned on and then off will suffice in the winter) for 2 hours. You can use the dough now, but it will be very sticky and hard to work with. A better option is to cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least several hours and no more than a week. When you are prepared to make your bread, sprinkle the dough with a bit of flour and grab a 1 lb hunk, or approximately the size of a small grapefruit. Form into a ball with lightly floured hands, tucking the ends under the boule. Flour a baking pan and place the boule on top, allowing to rise for 60-90 minutes. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F (232 C) with a broiling pan on the bottom shelf. Before placing the dough in the oven, cut three long slashes, about 1/2 inch deep with a sharp serrated knife or kitchen shears. Place the dough on the middle shelf in your preheated oven. Take a small cup of water and throw it in the broiling pan on the bottom of the oven. This creates steam and a crispy crust. Bake for 30-35 minutes until dark brown and risen. It should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, and the crust should be hard. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. Store cut side down on a cutting board or in a paper bag to keep the crust from getting chewy. You can reheat for a few minutes in a 350 F oven to crisp it up.