When I moved in a small three-bedroom apartment with my two childhood friends, we knew we were a bit beyond chore wheels. Those sort of impersonal divisions and systems of accountability aren't necessary for groups of people who would never rather fight than do a bit more work. Everyone has a different work schedule, though none of them is the traditional 9-5, so we have to be at least as flexible as roommates as we are at work. What we needed more than anything was a good mode of communication, a canary in the coal mine that would tell us when we needed to talk more to ensure all our domestic bases are covered. This is where the bread comes in.
My mom gave me the bread recipe before I went to college after seeing it in The Times. It's so easy and simple it seems like some sort of elemental formula, a building block of the universe as we know it. As people who bake using this recipe are apparently wont to do, I evangelized, telling all my friends how easy (and tasty) it was to make your own bread. When my roommates Max and Will and I moved in, we bought a cheap dutch oven for just this purpose.
The recipe goes like this:
Combine 3 cups of flour, 1 1/4 tsp. of salt, and 1/4 tsp. of active dry yeast in a large bowl with 1 5/8 cups of warm water. Mix and cover with saran wrap. Let sit for 12-18 hours.
Take the dough and fold it over a few times on a floured board, cover loosely with the saran wrap, and let sit for 15 minutes.
Fold the dough over a few times again, and cover with a floured cotton towel and let rise for 2 hours. After 90 minutes, preheat the over to 450 and put the dutch oven in.
Bake the bread at 450 for 30 minutes with the cover on, and then 15-30 with the cover off to brown it.
- If you want to be able to cut it with a knife, let the bread sit out and cool. We usually tear into with it with our hands before then.
That's the basic recipe, and you can add pretty much anything you want. I like creating a cornmeal crust personally, but that's for a cooking column. This is about how we use the process. We make every loaf collectively, figuring out on the fly who is going to do what steps. To do that, we have to talk about our schedules, what we'll be doing, where we'll be. It doubles as a check-in time, which is perfect for co-ordinating and scheduling group activities and responsibilities.
Rather than being a hassle, the whole thing is enjoyable, especially continuing our talk over fresh bread. A precarious schedule can make it hard to be accountable to people in who aren't paying for the basic day-to-day reproduction of your life, but the bread gives us a warning sign. If we screw a loaf up through miscommunication or fail to make it for a couple days, then we know we need to put in more work. But that usually doesn't happen; we all want the bread.