When Andrew was at the Captain’s Career Course in Fort Benning, GA, we were invited over to his section sponsor’s house for dinner one night. Mrs. Jan MacWatters, our hostess and fabulous chef, prepared a delicious spread that evening. But there was one thing that stood out on her table, one thing we all kept going back for- a warm, crusty bread. We topped it with her tapenade and bruschetta, and later in the evening, when all her sides had been devoured, we ate what was left of the bread plain.
A few other wives and myself gathered into Mrs. MacWatters’ kitchen and begged her to share her recipe with us. She told us a romantic tale of how she met her husband in Germany, where she was from, how they married, had children and moved all over the world together. When they moved to America, she was disappointed that there were no bakeries to take home a daily fresh loaf of bread from, a custom she had grown fond of in her life in Europe. So when her husband was a captain, like our husbands, she decided to start baking her own bread for her family and hasn’t bought a loaf from a store since! She collected up our email addresses and shared with us her coveted recipe.
The recipe for Captain’s Bread, as I’ve affectionately named it, is so simple, a caveman could do it. It only takes about 10 minutes of actual prep! In fact, it’s so easy I made it twice over the four-day weekend using this pan, recommended by Mrs. MacWatters! You can make this easy homemade bread with white or whole wheat flour. I’ve tried both. The photos in the recipe are of my wheat loaves, but I preferred the “French bread” flavor of the white flour loaves. Either way, this bread will fill your house with an awesome fresh-baked smell that will linger for hours.
We gobbled up our first batch, with butter melted on top, as a side for quite a few dinners- salads, tortellini and breaded chicken cutlets, and chicken with rice and veggies. Our second batch of bread will be used tonight to make steak paninis with melted mozzarella, tomato and arugula. Swoon!
A recipe perfected, served and shared by Mrs. Jan MacWatters (Fort Benning, GA).
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 TSP oil (I use EVOO)
- 1 TSP vinegar (or anything acidic, like lemon juice)
- 1 TSP salt
- 2 TSP dry active yeast
- 1 TBS honey or sugar
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- Blend all ingredients together in KitchenAid mixed with a dough hook or in a food processor (this may be mixed by hand, but will take about 20 mins). The dough will be very sticky - don't add more flour, although you might be tempted to.
- After the dough is mixed, coat your hands with a little bit of oil, then add approximately 2 TSP oil to the mixing bowl. Coat the dough in the olive oil, so that it doesn't stick to the bowl as it rises.
- Let dough rise for about an hour- it should be doubled in size. If it's cold, this might take longer. If you have to leave, you can pop the bowl in the fridge and it will take 3-4 hours to rise.
- When the dough has doubled in size, remove from the bowl and shape it into two long loaves (or any other shape you want- it'll make about 10 rolls).
- After shaping, allow dough to rise again in a warm place for about 30 mins. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400F and make sure it is hot before putting the dough in.
- Bake for about 40 mins. If the crust is getting too brown, lower the temperature for the last 20 mins (350 or 325 should be fine).
- When you remove the bread from the oven, it should slide right out of the pan and should sound hollow when you tap it.
- **After the first rising, you can add olives (or anything else) to the bread or you can roll the dough out to make pizza or calzones. If you don't let it rise, it will still be a good, but quite dense pizza base.
- **For ham and cheese bread, roll out dough like pastry after the first rising, sprinkle with ham/cheese/onions/olives and roll up. Bake it in a regular loaf pan, per the directions above. Slice to serve.