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Make artisanal bread with a Hearthkit

Make artisanal bread with a Hearthkit
                                                                   

I’ve been baking bread for many years now, but I like my bread crispy and chewy on the outside, and soft and doughy on the inside.  When you’re baking bread in a loafpan, it’s just hard to replicate that kind of texture.  My longing for that kind of bread only increased when a lovely little bakery opened in our town a few years ago.  They have the most delectable artisan style breads.  Truly.  Since my sweet little daughter sometimes babysits the owners’ two girls,  I’ve tried most, if not all, of their wonderful breads.  Eating their bread just made me tired of the soggy, limp crust I got when I baked my own.  I have a normal oven with a convection feature, but even the swirling air of the convection just didn’t do it.

Looking up recipes one day, I came across something called a HearthKit.    Understanding my deep-rooted “foodie” tendencies, my wonderful husband bought it for me for this past Christmas.  It’s basically a 3 brick insert you place in your oven.  It’s… AMAZING!  Even though I loved making my own bread before, I honestly feel like I can create an artisan loaf in my own home.  And it’s so simple!  Unless you’re cooking a bunch of things simultaneously, and you need the extra room,  it just stays in the oven all the time.  You preheat the oven to a very high temperature, and the brick holds the heat.  Even if you’re making a pot roast, foods tend to be done a bit more quickly, are juicier, and more evenly cooked all around.

When it comes to cooking bread, it couldn’t be easier.  You make the dough as you normally would, and then place it almost directly on the brick (it’s a lot easier to remove if you put it on parchment paper first).  I normally sprinkle a little cornmeal on the parchment, and by the time it’s done, it looks – and tastes – like something you’d pay top dollar for.   The same goes for homemade pizzas;  once in your mouth, you’d swear you were eating something you bought at the restaurant.

I still go to the bakery (they have fabulous desserts and sandwiches I could never begin to duplicate), but when I want my favorite cranberry pecan loaf, and they’re not making it on a Thursday, I just make my own!

Sourdough on HearthKit
                                                                              Sourdough on HearthKit
Oh, by the way… I cheat.  I use a bread machine to mix and rise the dough for most of my breads.  I’m not opposed to making it in my KitchenAid mixer, or even kneading it by hand, but it: a. saves time and b. keeps my kitchen cleaner.  I’m sure when people started using stand mixers to make their bread, a whole segment of bread bakers were incensed that they were cheating by not doing it the old fashioned way.  So I realize that perhaps others might be feeling the same way about making breads in a machine.  I even thought that way for a time. But then I got over it.  What’s that saying?  You pick your battles.  Well, this was not the hill I wanted to die on…  So if I need to make bread quickly, this is how I do it.   Here’s my basic whole wheat dough in a machine:
Basic Whole Wheat Bread
Ingredients:
  • 2 C warm water
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 1/2 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 C bread flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T dried milk
  • 2 t yeast
  • Optional:
  • 1/2 C oats
  • 1/8 C flax seeds
  • 1/4 C flax meal
  • 1/4 C sunflower seeds
  • 1/8 C chia seeds
  • 1/2 C chopped nuts
  • 1/2 C dried cranberries, raisins, dates, cherries, apricots, blueberries, etc…

Directions:

Put warm water into the bread machine. Add butter. Add whole wheat flour, bread flour, sugar, dried milk and salt. Make a small well in the center of dry ingredients; put in yeast. Add additional ingredients if desired. Set machine on dough cycle. Remove from bread machine, put on parchment paper dusted with cornmeal. Allow to rise for 10 minutes, then cook at 425 degrees for 30 minutes or until brown and crusty.


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