I'm not a great baker and the only success I've had with making breads so far is my pizza dough and my tortillas, neither of which require a whole lot of work or worry about moist texture or air bubbles or any of the other things "real" bread needs to be delicious. My attempts at making loaves of bread as good as what I could get at a bakery have failed miserably, and I've tried everything from basic baguettes to sourdough. So I wasn't very confident going into this recipe — and that made the surprise all the more sweet when the loaves came out of the oven as perfect as if I were a pro!
The process is very simple — no intimidating steps or warnings that you'll ruin the whole thing if you don't knead properly or have it rising at the perfect temperature. Any newbie to breads can make this recipe successfully. Coming out of the oven, the bread had a thin, delicately crunchy crust, and the hot fluffy inside with its mild, yeasty flavor was pure heaven. (And no, I couldn't wait for it to cool before I cut into it!!) The next day, the bread was still soft and fresh as I spread a couple of slices with butter and honey at breakfast. The recipe yields two large loaves, so if you want less bread, either cut the recipe in half or have some friends over.
This recipe is adapted from "Home Baking" by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 6 hours including rise time
Total time: 6 hours 15 minutes
Yield: 2 loaves
Easy Navy Bean Bread
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 2 cups drained cooked or canned navy beans, at room temperature
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- 2 cups unbleached organic all-purpose flour
- In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water.
- In a food processor, or in a bowl with an immersion blender, process the beans until they're smooth. Transfer them to a large mixing bowl and stir in the yeast. Then add in the whole wheat flour and stir for about one minute, continuing to stir in the same direction, to mix in all the flour. Drizzle the olive oil and salt on top and stir once more to combine.
- Add in half of the all-purpose flour, stir it in, then add another 1/2 cup and stir to incorporate. Flour a work surface with the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, then turn the dough out. Knead it for about 5 minutes.
- Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in an out-of-the-way spot and let rise for 3 hours, until it has almost doubled in volume.
- Flour a work surface again, turn the dough out, and divide it in half. Grease two 8x4-inch bread pans. One at a time, flatten each piece of dough a little with your hands, then roll it up into a cylinder, tuck the ends in, and pinch the seam to seal the loaf.
- Pop the dough, seam side down, into each loaf pan, cover them, and let them rise for another 2 1/2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill a sprayer with water. Slash each loaf lengthwise, place in the oven, and bake for 5 minutes, misting the loaves several times with water. (What also works, if you don't have a sprayer like me, is to toss half a cup of water onto the bottom of the oven and shut the door fast. It'll turn to steam and moisten the bread in the same way.) Bake the loaves for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 25 minutes, or until the loaves are a beautiful golden color.
- Remove the pans from the oven and turn the loaves out of the pan. The bottom of the loaves should sound a little hollow when you tap them. Place them on a wire rack to cool them. You're supposed to wait until they're room temperature before slicing into them, but good luck with that. There's nothing like a slice of bread hot from the oven with butter slathered on!
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