Someone's in the Kitchen with Sarah: Teresa Rowell shares her secret to homemade bread
Teresa Rowell bakes up a loaf of homemade bread every two or three days, which means her family hasn't bought a loaf from the grocery store in at least two years.
The Salisbury resident said she struggled to make bread before her friend, Anne Waters, turned her on to “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.
“It usually took a lot of effort with only mediocre results,” she said.
The book features a no-knead method that makes bread making possible for even the most novice bakers.
“Before, I would knead it and knead it and knead it, and end up with something either really hard or flat,” Rowell said. “In this recipe, the sitting and resting does the kneading.”
After checking out the book from the library, Rowell talked her daughter and a friend through how to make the bread because the authors wrote “Even a child can do it.”
“The first time I made it, I actually didn't make it,” she said. “I had a fourth-grader and a fifth-grader at my house and they made these two beautiful round loaves of bread.
“After that, I was hooked.”
Rowell bakes the classic, crispy crusted French boule and the Jewish braided bread challah most often.
“I'm not Jewish, but my family loves this eggy, mildly sweet braid,” she said.
I recently visited Rowell's house, near Catawba College, to try my hand at bread making. It was shockingly simple.
Both breads required little preparation, just mixing a few ingredients together and setting the dough aside for a couple hours.
The boule was beyond easy. It took less than a minute to mold the dough from a ball into a disc shape. After that, it rested for 40 minutes before we floured the tops and cut a few slits.
Thirty minutes in the oven yielded a crunchy, savory bread that would pair well with virtually any meal.
Rowell said she often bakes it in a loaf pan to create a shape that is equivalent to sandwich bread.
She's also used the basic boule recipe to make pizza crust and pita bread using directions from artisanbreadinfive.com.
The challah took a little bit more work, but not much.
After dividing the dough into three even sections, we rolls it into long strips before braiding it.
Rowell suggested starting the braid in the middle and working down the ends before flipping it around and braiding the other side. That method makes for an evenly-sized braid instead of one that starts thick and becomes small.
The dough stood for 1 hour and 20 minutes before we added an egg wash finish and popped it in the oven. Rowell opted to omit poppy seeds from the recipe, but those who like them can add them to the wash and brush them on at the same time.
The challah cooked quickly and made the entire house smell absolutely amazing.
This bread would be great for making French toast or eating plain in the morning. I'd also consider serving it with dinner and skipping dessert because it's got the perfect amount of honey to satisfy any sweet tooth.
The appeal of these recipes is the fact that enough dough for about four loaves can be made at once and stored in the refrigerator for future use.
Rowell keeps the dough in a set of plastic buckets instead of bowls in order to free up space in her fridge.
• • •
Rowell first learned to cook as a fifth grader.
“My mother made my brother and I learn a few things and that was our job,” she said. “Once a week we had to be responsible for a meal.”
Rowell's brother would typically make tater tots and hot dogs, but she took the task more seriously.
“I learned how to make scrambled eggs, meatloaf, spaghetti and meatballs — that kind of stuff,” she said. “We had a toaster oven, so I became the queen of open-faced cheese sandwiches.”
Her early start has led to a lifelong love of cooking.
In the past, Rowell has subscribed to Fine Cooking, Gourmet and Cooking Light magazines.
“I didn't make that many of the dishes, but they were fun to read and I would pick up ideas and tips,” she said.
Now, she relies on the Internet for inspiration, scouring social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr for recipes.
Rowell is also a fan of the blog smittenkitchen.com.
“Sometimes I'll just type in the ingredients that I have and see if I can come up with some ideas that way,” she said.
• • •
Rowell's philosophy in the kitchen is simple.
“Ideally you want something that looks nice and tastes good,” she said. “But I'm happy if the latter happens.
“I don't like to spend a lot of time ….I really like it if I can get dinner on the table in 35 minutes.”
Rowell's go-to ingredients are garlic, rosemary and thyme, but she likes to experiment when she orders online from Penzey's Spices.
“I try to break out of that rut, but it's hard because you can put those three on chicken or vegetables,” she said.
Rowell's husband, Eric Hake, and daughter, Julia, are also active in the kitchen.
The couple used to take turns cooking in college, but Hake briefly took over when Julia was born 10 years ago.
They've passed on their kitchen savvy to Julia, who recently learned how to make scrambled eggs.
“She's very excited about that,” Rowell said. “I haven't made her cook, but she's interested.
“We eat at home a lot, so she's part of the thought and planning process.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
Makes four 1-pound loaves.
3 cups lukewarm water
1 ½ tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packs)
1 ½ tablespoons kosher or other course salt
6½ cups unsifted unbleached, all-purpose white flour
Warm the water slightly. It should feel just a little warmer than body temperature, about 100 degrees
Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart bowl or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container. Don't worry about getting it all to dissolve.
Mix in the flour - kneading is unnecessary: Add all of the flour at once, measuring it in with dry-ingredient measuring cups, by gently scooping up flour, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula.
Mix with a wooden spoon, a high capacity food processor (14 cups or larger) fitted with the dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the mixture is uniform.
If you're hand mixing and it becomes too difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, you can reach into your mixing bowl with very wet hands and press the mixture together.
You're finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches.
This step should takes less an a minute, and should yield a dough that is wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.
Cover with a lid (not airtight). Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse, approximately 2 hours, depending on the room's temperature and the initial water temperature.
Longer rising times (up to 5 hours) will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period.
Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature. The authors recommend that the first time you try this recipe, you refrigerate the dough overnight (or at least 3 hours) before shaping a loaf.
On baking day
Place parchment paper on a baking sheet.
Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece of dough, using a serrated knife.
Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't stick to your hands.
Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out and adhere during resting and baking. The final product with be smooth and cohesive. The entire process in this step should take no longer than 30 to 60 seconds.
Place the shaped ball on the baking sheet. Allow the loaf to rest for about 40 minutes. It doesn't need to be covered during the rest period.
Twenty minutes before baking preheat oven to 450.
After the loaf is done resting, dust the top liberally with flour and slash a ¼-inch-deep cross, scallop or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife.
Heat 1 cup of water in the microwave and pour it into a loaf pan. Set that on the bottom rack inside the oven. Place the baking sheet with the bread on the top rack.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the curst is nicely browned and firm to the touch. When you remove the loaf the oven, it will audibly crack or sing when initially exposed to room-temperature air. Allow to cool completely for best flavor, texture and slicing.
Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in a lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next 14 days.
Makes four 1-pound loaves.
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (or neutral-tasting vegetable oil such as canola), plus more for greasing the cookie sheet
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)
Poppy or sesame seeds for the top
Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey, and melted butter (or oil) with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (no airtight) food container.
Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with dough hook). If you're not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days. Beyond 5 days, freeze in 1-pound portions in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. Defrost frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before using. Then allow the usual rest and rise time.
On baking day
Butter or grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper, or a silicone mat. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
Divide the ball into thirds, using a dough scraper or knife. Roll the balls between your hands (or on a board), stretching, to form each into a long, thin rope. If the dough resists shaping, let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Braid the ropes, starting from the center and working to one end. Turn the loaf over, rotate it, and braid from the center out to the remaining end. This produces a loaf with a more uniform thickness than when braided from end to end.
Allow the bread to rest and rise on the prepared cookie sheet for 1 hour and 20 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you're using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).
Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. If you're not using a stone in the oven, 5 minutes is adequate. Brush the loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with the seeds.
Bake near the center of the oven for about 25 minutes. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time. The challah is done when golden brown, and the braids near the center of the loaf offer resistance to pressure. Due to the fat in the dough, challah will not form a hard, crackling crust.
Allow to cool before slicing or eating.