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never 2 old to start cooking
a shared journey and learning experience

Most of us have heard bread referred to as the staff of life, a metaphor overflowing with truth.  In his documentary series "Cooked" (available on Netflix), Michael Pollan devotes one of the four episodes to bread, and makes, almost casually, the observation that given only grain and water a person cannot long survive, but given flour and water he can do quite well since he can make bread.
Simply put, bread is nothing more than flour and water, with perhaps a little salt.  Given this simplicity, bread is not the bug-a-boo that I had always thought it to be.  Bread is, believe it or not, quite easy to make and bake; and it's a blank canvas on which you can express yourself almost without end.  Don't believe me?  Here's my recipe for a traditional loaf, rustic or otherwise.  Flatbread follows.

Lamar's Basic Bread Recipe

3 cups all purpose flour,
1-3/4 tsp salt,
1/2 tsp (heaping) active dry yeast, and
1-1/2 cups of water, at room temperature.
In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and yeast) together with a whisk.  Mix in the water using a dough whisk or the dough hook attachment for your stand mixer to blend until well combined.  I like to coat the inside of another large bowl with olive oil and transfer the dough to the coated bowl; it will be easier to handle once it's time to get it ready for the oven.  Cover the bowl and allow it to sit at least 12 hours.  I like to prepare bread late afternoon or early evening with the goal of baking it the next morning.  I also like to put mine in the oven with the light on (you don't need to leave the light on for 12 hours; just the first hour or so works) - it keeps it away from the temperature variances associated with air conditioning, and also provides a modicum of warmth from the light to get things going.
When you're ready to cook, place a covered Dutch oven or covered cast iron loaf pan in your oven and preheat to 450 degrees.  Staub makes a really nice heirloom quality 
cast iron covered loaf pan if you're dead set on a loaf that looks like the loaf your accustomed to at the grocery store; it's also better if you're going to make sandwiches with your bread.
Flour your work surface (I use a large piece of parchment paper since the texture of the paper helps to ensure that the whole work area holds flour; if I'm making more than one I'll get out a large jelly roll pan which I generously fill with flour and use that).  Remove the dough from the bowl (a bowl scraper is an invaluable assist at this point), putting it on the floured work surface, and with floured hands form it into a ball (or a loaf, if using a loaf pan).  No kneading is required, though you may want to fold it a couple of times to get the shape you want.  Place the dough in the bottom of your Dutch oven or loaf pan, taking care not to burn yourself as the oven/pan and lid are very, very hot.  Bake for 35 minutes with the lid on; remove the lid and bake another 10-15 mins until the bread is golden brown.  At the end of this time you can thump the top of the loaf and get a beautiful hollow sound that say's "I'm ready".  Remove all from the oven and place on a cooling rack until the bread is cool enough for you to lift it from the Dutch oven or flip it out of the loaf pan.
Easy, huh?  And you'll be amazed how good your kitchen smells, in addition to taking great pride in that golden loaf of goodness you just made yourself.  Have some butter handy - you'll probably not be able to resist fresh, warm bread with melted butter.

Variations on a theme

It's really quite easy to develop an extensive ​repertoire of breads, now commonly referred to as artisanal breads.  The way to do this is to add your favorite herbs, spices, and other ingredients, all the while keeping a watchful eye to maintain the wet/dry ratio of the basic recipe.  For instance, if you decide to try for some whole wheat bread you should know that most whole wheat breads are not, as you might think, 100% whole wheat flour; they are usually (in my experience) comprised of a mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat flours, roughly 3 parts all-purpose to 1 part whole wheat flour.

The process is the same; it's the ingredients that change.  Pick a favorite from one of my posts and have some fun.



Quick, easy, and crisp flatbread.


1-3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil


Place a heavy baking sheet or baking stone on
the middle shelf of your oven and preheat to
450 deg.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt to combine, then make a well in the middle.

Add the water and oil to the well, and working from the center, gradually stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms.  Turn the dough out onto your counter or marble board and knead the dough gently 4-5 times to get a uniform consistency.  The olive oil in the dough should keep it from sticking to either you or your work surface.  Keep a bench scraper handy, just in case.

Depending on the size of the flatbreads you're wanting, divide the dough into 3-4 pieces and wrap each piece in plastic wrap.  Let them rest for 30 minutes or so, putting any you're not using right away into the refrigerator. (This resting is not only good for the dough, it also makes time for your oven to get good and hot.

Unwrap the first piece and place it on a parchment round - 9-12" is more than sufficient.  Using either your hands or a rolling pin (in the latter instance you'll want to put some parchment on top to eschew the dough sticking or becoming difficult to manage), spread the dough into a rough round or oblong shape, working it outward until the desired shape and thickness are attained.  Don't deprive yourself and really have some fun at this juncture by using  your hands.  It's a great tactile experience and very theraputic.

Slide the dough, still on the parchment round, onto the preheated baking stone or sheet and bake until a pale gold color; the flatbread will be a darker brown on the characterist 'hills' that form as it cooks.

Once done, transfer the flatbread to a cooling rack and remove the parchment round (and yes, it will have darkened in the process of baking, but worry not).  Once cool you can store it in an airtight container for a couple of days if you're not planning to use it right away.
​​​Variety - the spice of life.

For a softer top finish, brush the top with olive oil before baking.

For a more savory product, brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary or your favorite herb mixture, gently pressing it into the dough before baking.  In this case you may want to break the bread before serving, and consider pairing it with yogurt or hummus or any other favorite.

As a tasty side to any salad, sprinkle with sea salt flakes (or a flavored finishing salt), and again, press it gently into the dough before baking.

Again, fun, and a delicious side or 'edible plate' is the goal.