Lifestyle/ sides

The Can It Academy Series: 7 of 12

bread baking

Class #7 of the Can It Academy Food Preservation and Cottage Arts Certification Program:  Bread Making

I was so excited to walk into the Can It Academy and see Erik Knutzen there as our guest speaker. I’m a big fan of Erik and his wife Kelly’s blog Root Simple. Erik was there to teach our bread making class which made perfect sense as he is the organizer for the LA Bread Bakers Meet Up Group.

bread making

My experience to date with bread making revolved around a bread machine I got at the height of their popularity back in the early 1990’s. (Did I just age myself?) I was excited to start making fresh bread for my family but instead I would get mostly dense loaves best used for door stoppers. It killed my desire to keep trying and as I’d watch Julia Child’s knead and knead and knead her dough on TV, I felt this ‘real’ way was just too much work for a busy, new mom like me. Bread making went out the window. Until now.

After a short lecture in which Knutzen couldn’t emphasize a digital scale enough, he had us shaping loaves with a wet dough recipe in a matter of minutes.  All I could think was, I must have missed something, because that was way too easy!

bread making

bread making

This wet dough recipe is revolutionary for me. When you work 60 hours a week but still want to cook homemade meals for your family, this is the perfect technique! According to Knutzen there are four important aspects to this: your digital scale, a wet dough, a long fermentation time and a Dutch Oven (preferably, but I’ve since made it in a loaf pan… more on this later.)

There’s a bit of bakers math when talking about the hydration ratio, so I’m not going to talk about it, since math gives me the heebe-jeebe’s.  I’ll just trust in what I’m taught.  It’s good to have faith in others abilities for teaching and recipe development! ‘Josey Baker Bread Book’ is supposed to be an excellent resource, as well.

The no knead loaf we made was measured out for us and we mixed it in bags to take home. (You don’t have to mix it with your hands, I left my bag zipped closed and massaged the bag thoroughly in just a few minutes from the outside.)

baking bread

The ingredients in bread making haven’t changed much in the last 30,000 years: grain, water, salt, and a culture (a store bought yeast or a starter). The starter, or mother, gets the fermentation process going and bread bakers always keep a batch of a starter somewhere in their kitchen. Knutzen brought his own to share with us, so we also all went home with a little jar of starter. We were told we need to feed it every day by removing 1 Tbs of starter and replacing it with 1 Tbs purified water and 1 Tbs of flour. (This is for a few reasons.. it cuts down on how huge this could potentially get, but it also feeds the existing starter.) I wasn’t sure if I was ready to except the responsibility of feeding my starter everyday, but I haven’t missed a day since and it’s just become part of my daily routine now.


baking bread

To get that crispy crust, you’ll want the bread to steam.  This can be achieved by either using a lidded dutch oven, a pullman loaf pan with a lid or if you just use a regular loaf pan without a lid, you’ll want to add a baking sheet to the bottom rack of your oven and add some water to create a steam.  We used a few different things in class so we could see how they all would turn out. (Delicious, if you were wondering!) Knutzen loves his Lodge cast iron dutch oven, below. (The red dutch oven did have a lid on while cooking, it was just removed to show us how the bread looked.)



baking bread

This gorgeous boule is formed by letting your dough rise in this…

bread baking

With this white dough, you can make a boule too, or shape into sandwich bread, a baguette, a ciabatta… just about any shape you want.  And the longer you let your dough sit (up to two weeks in the ‘fridge!) the more of a sourdough flavor it will take on.

While we waited for our bread to bake, Chef Miller whipped up a batch of butter in no time flat. (Now that was pretty cool!) He simply poured unharmoginized heavy whipping cream into a blender and whipped it into butter! (Ultra pasteurized cream will not work.) It will first look like whipped cream but you want to keep going.  Then keep going some more until it starts looking like the photo on the right.  Like butter!


Remove the butter from the liquid (you now also have buttermilk!), place in a cheesecloth and let drain.  Viola, butter! (You may want to add salt before adding to a container.)


bread baking

This was just a great class.  Our instructors made bread making ( and butter making) seem so easy, and it is!  I’ve since made it at home and we’ve been enjoying it ever since.

If you really get into the different bread recipes and techniques out there, you may want to join the LA Bread Bakers Meet Up Group, if you’re in the Los Angeles area.  They buy different flours in bulk so you can get a high quality grain, as well as grains that are hard to find in the market, like Sonora, an heirloom wheat. And if you really get into it, you can mill your own…

bread making

Take-aways from the bread making class:

  • I really can make fresh bread, even with my crazy schedule!!!
  • When shaping your white dough, do it on a floured surface.  When shaping a whole wheat dough, however, a wet work surface is better.  Who knew!
  • As with all the fermentation we’ve been learning about, make sure your water is purified since you don’t want chlorine in it.
  • If you buy a good yeast, buy it in a big, commercial packet and freeze what you don’t use.
  • Two cups starter = 1 package active dry yeast. Hopefully a good recipe will give you an exact measurement.

Resource for locally milled flours in the LA area: Grist and Toll

Here are links to the six previous articles in this series:

Five Minute Bread

Cook Time: 15 minutes

four 1 pound loaves

Five Minute Bread

Use organic ingredients whenever possible


  • 3 cups purified water, lukewarm
  • 1 Tbs yeast
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour


  1. In a mixer (or by hand) combine the water, yeast and salt.
  2. Add the flour, all at once, combining until all flour is absorbed and everything is moist. (This should just take a a minute or so.)
  3. Loosely cover the container and let rise at room temperature for two hours.
  4. You can use the dough now or refrigerate up to two weeks. (Make sure to vent your container so the gasses can escape.)
  5. When ready to bake, cut off how much you want to bake (1 lb would make a small round, use more for a sandwich size loaf).
  6. Flour your work surface and hands then start pulling up the corners of the dough and flip over so those pinched corners are now on the bottom.
  7. With both hands, lift the dough just barely off the work surface and turn a 1/4 turn in a quick motion, tucking the edges under each time you lift it up. This will only take about a minute to form the dough into a smooth shape.
  8. Place into a floured container to rise for about 40 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 450° for 20 minutes, with your oiled pan in it.
  10. Have your empty baking sheet ready to go on the bottom rack.
  11. When you're ready to bake, remove the heated pan and add your dough.
  12. Make a slash or tic-tac-toe pattern in the dough with a very sharp knife or razor blade.
  13. Place the pan back int he oven, covered. If you do not have a lid, add water to the empty baking sheet and close the door quickly. This will help create steam.
  14. Bake for 15-30 minutes, covered then 15-30 minutes more uncovered until the crust is a deep, rich brown, and firm.
  15. Let the loaf cool completely on a wire rack.


This recipe is from the book, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The five minutes is how long to takes to get your dough together. The rest of the time is passively spent waiting for it to ferment/rise. Cooking time averages about 15 minutes or so. It really is easy!

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