Food

Hay Day’s Peasant Bread

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I grew up in Westport, Connecticut where there was a fancy grocery store called Hay Day. Everyone knew about Hay Day. Not everyone would shop in Hay Day since a loaf of peasant bread was about $3, which in those days was pricey! We shopped there for special occasions. When my mother wanted to make something crazy like a dish that had gooseberries (first and last time she did anything with gooseberries) we would go to Hay Day. I have very fond memories of the bread and the times my mom and I spent together. So without anymore reminiscence, here’s the recipe for their peasant bread! This is one of the easiest recipes and if you are a first-time baker this recipe is for you!

What you’ll need:

  • Two loaf pans, about five or six cup size
  • Large bowl (bigger then you think) for the dough to proof in
  • Cooling rack

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of warm water (105-115 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon of butter – melted

Combine hot water, sugar, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Let the mixture get nice and bubbly – about five minutes. Dissolve the baking soda in cool water (about a 1/4 cup) and add it to the yeast mixture. Sift your flour with the salt into a separate bowl. Slowly pour the flour over the yeast and baking soda mixture and stir with a large spoon slowly incorporating all the ingredients.

Once you have all the flour mixed in, flour your board/counter and knead the dough until it’s smooth. This will be hard at first since it will be loose and sticky but keep at it, adding flour to get the dough to stop sticking. You could use up to another cup of flour for this. The dough should be firm and smooth and it can be a little sticky (really just a little bit). Put some olive oil into a large bowl and put the dough into the bowl and move it around and coat the dough with the oil. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean kitchen towel and set aside to rest until the dough doubles in size.

After the first proofing, flour the surface/counter and knead the dough again to make a smooth ball.

Now you are ready for the bread to rise/proof one more time. Butter the bread pans and cut the dough in half and tuck them into the pans. Set loaves aside, uncovered, in a warm, draft-free place until they have doubled in size, about two hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the tops of the loaves with the melted butter, arrange the pans on a baking sheet and bake until crisp and nicely browned on top, about thirty to forty minutes. To test for doneness, tap the loaf, it should sound hollow. Turn the loaves of bread out onto a cooling rack and let them cool, if you can, before serving. The bread tastes so buttery with only the little bit of butter on the loaves before baking.

Note – this bread is also very good as an herb bread. To make it, before the first rising, stir in 3 tablespoons each of cleaned, chopped fresh dill, parsley, and scallions. Combine thoroughly and put the dough into the bowl and proof as above. It is SUPER delicious!

Hay Day's Peasant Bread

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I grew up in Westport, Connecticut where there was a fancy grocery store called Hay Day. Everyone knew about Hay Day. Not everyone would shop in Hay Day since a loaf of peasant bread was about $3, which in those days was pricey! We shopped there for special occasions. When my mother wanted to make something crazy like a dish that had gooseberries (first and last time she did anything with gooseberries) we would go to Hay Day. I have very fond memories of the bread and the times my mom and I spent together. So without anymore reminiscence, here's the recipe for their peasant bread! This is one of the easiest recipes and if you are a first-time baker this recipe is for you! What you'll need: Two loaf pans, about five or six cup size Large bowl (bigger then you think) for the dough to proof in Cooling rack

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of warm water (105-115 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon of butter - melted

Instructions

1

Combine hot water, sugar, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Let the mixture get nice and bubbly - about five minutes. Dissolve the baking soda in cool water (about a 1/4 cup) and add it to the yeast mixture. Sift your flour with the salt into a separate bowl. Slowly pour the flour over the yeast and baking soda mixture and stir with a large spoon slowly incorporating all the ingredients.

2

Once you have all the flour mixed in, flour your board/counter and knead the dough until it's smooth. This will be hard at first since it will be loose and sticky but keep at it, adding flour to get the dough to stop sticking. You could use up to another cup of flour for this. The dough should be firm and smooth and it can be a little sticky (really just a little bit). Put some olive oil into a large bowl and put the dough into the bowl and move it around and coat the dough with the oil. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean kitchen towel and set aside to rest until the dough doubles in size.

3

After the first proofing, flour the surface/counter and knead the dough again to make a smooth ball.

4

Now you are ready for the bread to rise/proof one more time. Butter the bread pans and cut the dough in half and tuck them into the pans. Set loaves aside, uncovered, in a warm, draft-free place until they have doubled in size, about two hours.

5

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the tops of the loaves with the melted butter, arrange the pans on a baking sheet and bake until crisp and nicely browned on top, about thirty to forty minutes. To test for doneness, tap the loaf, it should sound hollow. Turn the loaves of bread out onto a cooling rack and let them cool, if you can, before serving. The bread tastes so buttery with only the little bit of butter on the loaves before baking.

Notes

Note - this bread is also very good as an herb bread. To make it, before the first rising, stir in 3 tablespoons each of cleaned, chopped fresh dill, parsley, and scallions. Combine thoroughly and put the dough into the bowl and proof as above. It is SUPER delicious!

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