Peasant bread is named after the demographic that traditionally consumed this simple product.
Since peasant bread often relies on simple ingredients and locally sourced whole grains, it has historically been a very easy food for lower class people to make. Yet, since these initial beginnings, peasant bread has grown in popularity and is now enjoyed by all demographics, even at tailgates.
In this article, we discuss a particularly delicious, modern peasant bread recipe. After guiding readers step by step through our methods, we conclude with our thoughts on this simple peasant bread recipe.
Acquiring Local, Organic Ingredients
The first step is to acquire your ingredients, making sure they come from local farmers and organic farming methods if at all possible.
The best way to do this is to go to farmers markets in your area. This allows you to talk directly to the farmers and ask them various questions about their methods.
We recommend being confident but not aggressive when talking to local farmers. Some people are way too confrontational when it comes to seeking information about organic methods, which only harms everyone involved.
Other people are not confident enough to probe deep into the farmers techniques. Some farmers might even try to hide their true practices in order to make a sale. If you sense any shady tactics going on, we recommend purchasing from another buyer. Any kind of negative energy circulating around an intimate food exchange will transfer to the food itself, leading to poor digestion and conflicting energies.
Talking to farmers is a skill that you will develop over time. Don’t sweat it if you forget to ask some question in the beginning, as there is a ton of information regarding the creation of any grain, seed, nut, or legume. These crops will likely form the flour you use for your peasant bread recipe. They can be sourced from local farmers in either whole, dried form or sometimes in flour form. If in the former, you might have to use a miller to turn these crops into flour. If you don’t have a miller, the last option would be to search co-op stores for local or regional flours.
Prepping the Dough for Baking
The most hands-on part of this process is the formation of the dough. You should sufficiently wash your hands before beginning, as things are about to get dirty.
Yet, that’s the beauty of this whole operation. This peasant bread is so healthy and digestible because it stems literally from the palm of your hands. You will bring this bread into creation. You will make its dough rise. That’s not something you can say about store bought breads.
How you build the dough will depend on what yeast you use. If you are using some kind of instant yeast, then all you have to do is put the following ingredients in a bowl and mix with your hands:
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- 4 cups of flour
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons of cold-pressed, extra virgin olive
Then we add 2 cups of water, mixing together the ingredients until the flour is sufficiently absorbed. The mixture should have that classic thick, doughy texture. If you’re hands aren’t covered in dough slime by the end, then you haven’t done it right.
Next, we cover the bowl with a light cloth and set it aside for about an hour to rise. The warmer the spot, the better, as this will expedite the rising process.
We didn’t specify what kind of flour to use in order to give the culinary artist flexibility when crafting her peasant bread. We recommend using whatever local grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes can be turned into flours. The quantity of 4 cups of flour is based on wheat flour and is a fairly accurate measurement of how much flour you should use.
Some flours will of course require you to use more or less than 4 cups. Remember that creating the dough is an chemical process that can be unique each time you do it. Instead of focusing so much on abstractions, you should focus on giving the dough whatever it needs, as it is a living, breathing organism that needs to grow in order to be edible. You wouldn’t rigidly adhere to abstractions when feeding a child right? If the child cried, you would give her breastmilk.
The same logic applies when combining flours. Unique synergies will be created when you do this, making it difficult to estimate what quantities of ingredients will be needed. Adding some flours might necessitate more yeast or water, for example, or even more oil.
Some flours might require additional ingredients. For example, any gluten-free flour will likely require some kind of binder in order to hold the dough together. Otherwise, your bread will just fall apart. There are tons of options for binders in this situation. One of our favorites is flaxseed powder, as this comes from the highly nutritious flaxseed which is loaded with omega 3 fatty acids.
Coconut oil is another binder that can be used which allows you to replace the olive oil. Coconut oil will give the bread a nutty taste rather than the rich, peppery bitterness of olive oil.
Baking the Bread in the Oven
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Once the dough has risen, we pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Then, we prep a baking pan by coating it with several tablespoons of olive oil. We spread the oil around, making sure to coat most of the pan. You can also use parchment paper if you want, as this material will make it easy to extract your bread when it’s done cooking.
It’s important to keep in mind that the shape of the pan you use will determine the shape of the final peasant bread.
Some people find that the taste of food changes depending on its dimensions. In this sense, the shape of pan you use will actually influence how the peasant bread tastes, as taste is partially a function of your own state of mind. Our emotions impact how we experience food, and our emotions are of course connected to the forms of our environment, the shape of bread being one.
Circular and rectangular pans are great if this is your first time making peasant bread. These kinds of pans offer a basic shape for you to experiment with. Remember that regardless of what shape of pan you use, the bread will rarely conform precisely to the shape. This shape acts more as a model. A number of factors will influence the shape of the final bread, including the temperature its baked at as well as how long its baked for.
You might need to use two bowls for this recipe depending on the size of bowl you have. For example, if you only have a quart sized pan, then you will likely need two of them for this recipe.
You will need to punch down your dough before plopping it in your baking pan. You can do this using a fork, as this will allow you to scrap the dough from the sides of your bowl while also retaining its composure.
After about 15-20 minutes in the oven, we like to reduce the temperature down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing the bread to cook for an additional 10-15 minutes.
Determining When the Peasant Bread Is Done
You’ll know the bread is done because the surface layer will be slightly crispy and will have a distinct aesthetic depending on what flour you use.
In the beginning its helpful to probe into the interior to determine if the bread is done cooking. The peasant bread should be tender yet thick, dense, and possibly even airy in places depending on the flour and yeast you used.
While we didn’t mention it in the beginning, you can also use a yeast culture that has been spawning bread for many years. These vibrant cultures are loaded with wisdom and experience, influencing the resultant bread in a totally unique way.
In this sense, you should stay present throughout the baking process and act on intuition. If your bread seems like it’s done, then you should respond to that observation, even if not enough time has passed. Alternatively, just because 30-35 minutes have passed doesn’t mean your bread is done cooking. Some bread needs extra time to fully solidify and rise into a healthy, delicious food source.
Our Final Thoughts on This Peasant Bread Recipe
We love this peasant bread recipe because it’s so simple to create and store, making it amenable for tailgate settings. It requires no more than 2 hours of your time to make, and most of that time consists of waiting for the bread to rise and bake. The actual amount of preparation time is minimal and can be done by just about any amateur baker before the tailgate begins.
What’s also great about this peasant bread recipe is how flexible it is. We purposely sculpted the recipe in this way in order to ensure that local ingredients are always used.
Some crops are out of season during parts of the year, making them difficult to source. In these situations, we recommend going with whatever flour you can buy locally, regardless if you’re familiar with its characteristics. You can even use this as an opportunity to understand some new crop on a deeper level, exploring its various incarnations as peasant bread.