Peasant bread is bread made from simple ingredients without any of the frills. There are no herbs, spices, additions, or special equipment needed to make this bread because – lets face it – peasants can’t afford anything. They survived on what they had and what was available to them. Peasant bread is typically made with whole wheat flour with additions of rye or other healthful flours to supply the necessary nutrients (like protein) peasants were not getting due to the lack of meat on their dinner tables.
But I’m not a peasant and I really couldn’t find whole wheat bread flour, so I’m going away from tradition (surprise, surprise) and delivering a product without the healthful qualities of whole wheat or rye flour and utilizing delicious, empty nutrient white flour. I’ll stick with tradition on one level and utilize no special equipment for this bread loaf with the exception of a pizza stone and pizza peel because I know the peasants had bricks a plenty in their ovens that they cooked on and had to use some device other than their hands to retrieve their food from the fiery depths.
- 6 cups of Bread Flour
- 1 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast (2 packages)
- 1 1/2 tbsp salt
- 3 cups luke warm water (125 degrees or so)
1. Place the flour, yeast, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
2. Pour in the water and use a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients. You’re eventually going to have to use your hands to finish mixing, but there is no need to knead this dough. Once combined, cover loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow to rise for 2 hours.
3. Drop the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough equally in half and form two loafs. You can make your loafs into any shape you want. Using a serrated knife or a razor blade, slash the bread several times. I like to make a tic tac toe board on my loafs, but every baker has their own preferences. Place the loafs on a parchment paper lined pizza peel (a big cutting board would work too) and allow to rise for another hour. While the dough is rising, place the pizza stone in a cold oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Place a metal sheet pan on the rack underneath the pizza stone. Pour four cups of water into the sheet pan.
Note: Parchment paper is special equipment I suppose, but a healthy layer of cornmeal with also prevent the dough from sticking to the pizza peel. Also, the metal sheet pan with the water is optional, but this will turn your oven into a steam oven and lead to a delicious crust that will form on the outside of your bread. Do you not have a pizza stone? You can use a cast iron skillet or a dutch oven too.
4. If there is very little water left in the sheet pan, place another cup or two into the sheet pan. Cook the bread for 40 – 45 minutes until a thick, golden brown crust has formed. The bread should sound hollow when thumped.
5. Serve hot with dinner or allow to cool completely before freezing. Bread generally keeps for up to a month in the freezer.
Note: If you like, now is a good time to rub some butter on the outside of the crust before serving.