Hobo Bread: Theme and Variation

Some of you may recall Jilly’s gorgeous—and somewhat curious—hobo bread. In Jilly’s low-impact approach to daily baking, not only do you not knead the dough, you don’t wash the bowl. I’d been meaning to try it for quite some time, but I must admit that I was a little bit intimidated by the process…all those weights and measures and stuff. Last week I finally dived in. Since I didn’t have a starter, I used about 1 teaspoon of yeast to get things started, mixed it with 3 cups of flour and 1/2 cups water, a handfull of oatmeal and flax seeds, and let it sit all night. The next morning I stirred it down, tossed it around a couple of times on a flour-covered surface, put it in a colander lined with a muslin bag, let it rise, and baked it in a preheated dutch oven. (And very important: I saved a blob for the next time and stuck it in the unwashed bowl.) It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t spectacular.

Day 2: No added yeast: This time, I used the previous day’s blob as my starter. And lo! Beautiful bread:

doris-hobo-bread
And then, the next day, I took the starter and made tasty little sourdough hamburger buns:

hobo-rolls
The moral of the story is that you, too, can have amazing, pseudo-sourdough breads with very little effort, so long as you can stand the sight of an unwashed bowl and dough blob in your kitchen. By request, I’ve provided simplified instructions.

Jilly’s Hobo Bread, Simplified

1) When you make a batch of bread, pull off about 1/4 c of dough and throw it in your bowl. Add about 1/2 c of water and whatever flour is left on your counter to the bowl. Cover and let it sit overnight, or a day or two.

The night before or morning that you want bread:
2) Add about 2 1/2 c flour and 1 c of water to the bowl. Stir everything together and cover. Let it sit overnight or at least five hours. It should be quite large and bubbly.

3) Prepare a surface to work on by coating it with flour. Pour your dough onto the surface. If you’re planning on adding goodies, like herbs or nuts or seeds or cheese into the dough, remember to pull off the hunk of spare dough first. Work enough flour into it that you can handle the dough, then let it rest for about 15 minutes.

4) Shape the dough however you want. It’s not a terribly sturdy dough, so it will do better if it has support, like some sort of bowl or pan lined with a flour-lined shirt. It does have some spring, though, so you can definitely make rolls if you want. Let it rise about 2 hours.

5) A half hour before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 475°, preferably with a cooking vessel, like a dutch oven or clay pot, inside. Then gently transfer the dough to the vessel and bake it until it’s done: generally about half an hour. Note that I baked the rolls dirctly on a cooking sheet, and they turned out just fine.

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1 comment to Hobo Bread: Theme and Variation

  • How would you transfer the dough into the vessel without deflating it? I’ve only ever used bread pans. Once I did a round on a pizza peel but when I shook it onto the pizza stone it lost some oomph.

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