Someone, somewhere needs to write a cookbook called “The One-Handed Cookbook: Meals You Can Make with a Baby on Your Hip.” I’m convinced it would be a best-seller if the recipes actually worked. :)
Although this bread isn’t a whole meal, it’s the best way I’ve found to get homemade bread into the oven when there’s a baby in the house. Without fail, the baby needs to be held at the time you remember to start the bread dough. And it’s awfully hard to put a screaming baby down for an entire 7-10 minutes while you measure, mix, and knead the dough. (Or it’s hard to rescue the crawler with dough on your hands. Or it’s hard to make the toddler wait to play a game for 7 full minutes. Et cetera.)
Enter the stretch-and-fold technique.
I learned it from this free video series on Craftsy: Perfect Pizza at Home with Peter Reinhart. I’d read some of Reinhart’s bread books before, but the stretch-and-fold technique didn’t make sense to me until I saw him do it on the video. And may I just say that his pizza is hands-down *the* best homemade pizza ever! Between his crust recommendations, his sauce (using Tuttoroso tomatoes, via Cook’s Illustrated suggestion) and his suggestions to mix cheeses, our cravings for takeout pizza have diminished significantly. It’s that good. :)
So I adapted the pizza crust recipe to make regular bread dough. You start it in the mixer, do a stretch-and-fold 3 or 4 times, and then let it rise as usual. It always turns out moist and delicious!
I’ll give you the general idea with these photos, but if you really want to know what you’re doing, go watch the video course. It’s free (I don’t even get a commission!), and if you like pizza or are interested in baking bread, it’ll be well worth your time. It may even revolutionize your home bread-baking scene. :)
One-Handed Homemade Sandwich Bread
Add ingredients (see below) to stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, stir just until all the flour is wet and all the water is absorbed.
Let dough rest for one minute. Stir again, just until the dough looks kind of stretchy (or “shaggy” as he says in the videos). This will take approximately 15-20 seconds.
Dump dough out onto an oiled cutting board. (Spread the oil out with your fingers, then use your fingers to scrape the dough out. It’s very wet, so oiled fingers will reduce sticking.)
Press the dough out into an approximate rectangle with wet or oiled fingers.
Let rest for at least 5 minutes. (This lets some of the gluten relax and the flour hydrate a little bit more.)
With wet or oiled fingers again, press dough out into another rectangle. Fold in thirds again, just like you did before. This time the dough should start to resemble the “smooth and elastic” feeling you get after a few minutes of traditional kneading.
Let dough rest for at least 5 more minutes. It has seemed to work just fine to wait significantly longer than 5 minutes. (Like if you have to go to the grocery store before lunch time madness ensues. Ahem. :) )
Perform your stretch and fold two more times, ideally. After the fourth time, your dough should seem very smooth and ready to rise, possibly with some air bubbles as pictured below.
You may now choose your own adventure: let the dough rise at room temperature or refrigerate it for maximum flavor development. I usually let it rise for 30 minutes to an hour, then punch it down, shape the loaves and let them rise, and then bake it. But it is definitely even more delicious if you have time to let it rise slowly in the refrigerator. :)
- 2 cups water
- 1 scant tablespoon yeast
- 1 scant tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- Add all ingredients to mixer.
- Stir with paddle attachment (not dough hook) for 30 seconds to 1 minute until all flour is wet.
- Let dough sit 1-2 minutes.
- Stir again, 10-15 seconds, until dough looks slightly stretchy and shaggy. Not too wet, but not stiff and dry either.
- Oil a cutting board, and with oiled fingers, scrape dough out onto cutting board.
- Perform 4 stretch-and-folds at 5 minute intervals.
- Let dough rise on counter or in refrigerator before shaping and baking.
- Shape into two loaves, let rise until doubled, and bake at 375 for 22 minutes.
If you try it, I hope you love it as much as we do! :)