I have to be honest and tell you that I would love a do-over for this year so far. It’s been a difficult one, to say the least. I’ll get into some of it in posts to come probably.
But – I’m looking forward now, and this recipe is a good place to begin. It’s from my old blog actually, but a year-round treat that we always enjoy. The fact that it is dead easy doesn’t hurt either.
Making bread can seem daunting if it’s not been your thing before, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. I grew up in a bread making family – both my Mom and her Mom went through periods when they made all of their own bread. I learned how to knead from them – how long, the best way to do it, how to tell when it’s ready.
What’s that you say? Your mom didn’t teach you how to knead homemade bread?
Not to worry – if you have a stand mixer, you don’t have to worry about kneading, because the mixer does all the work! Sweet, huh?
To tell you the truth, I rarely knead any bread by hand anymore, though some are more difficult to judge than others, as to how much is enough. I’m going to take the guesswork out of it for you though – this is a simple method, and one that has never failed me.
And because someone always asks – this recipe is perfected specifically for a large stand mixer, like a Cuisinart [which is the one I have] or a KitchenAid. A hand mixer will likely not be powerful enough to get the dough kneaded properly. You can, of course make this bread by hand, but it will take considerably more effort. Just mix it like crazy after the first addition of flour, and then when all of the flour is mixed in, turn it out on a floured board and knead the heck out of it. if you have a stand mixer though, this is the way to go!
- 1 and ¼ c very warm water
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 cups all purpose unbleached flour
- 1 & ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- water for brushing/spraying
- In the bowl of the mixer, combine the water, yeast and sugar - stir lightly with a fork. It need not be totally combined. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes the mixtures should look a bit bubbly. Add 3 cups of flour and the salt.
- Fit the mixer with the dough hook and at low speed, mix in the flour and salt, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- When the mixture is uniform, set the mixer to medium low and beat for 2 minutes.
- Turn off the mixer, and allow the mixture to rest for 20 minutes.
- After twenty minutes, turn the mixer back to low, and add the remaining cup of flour, ¼ cup at a time, mixing until completely incorporated each time. The dough should be fairly smooth at this point, and not sticking to the sides of the bowl at all - if it is still wet and shaggy, you need to add a bit more flour - another ¼ cup should do it.
- Once you have a fairly smooth dough that has come away from the sides of the bowl, set the mixer to medium speed, and knead for 8 minutes. This is the equivalent of about 20 minutes of kneading by hand, which is longer than I would knead a single loaf of sandwich type bread - it helps ensure a nice chewy texture though.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, and oil the bowl liberally, to prevent sticking. Put the dough back in, turn it a few times to coat it completely and cover with a piece of plastic wrap.
- Allow to rise for an hour, until doubled in size.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and shape into an oblong loaf, like this:
- Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper, and sprinkle it generously with cornmeal.
- Place the loaf in the middle of the baking sheet, and spray or brush lightly with water. I use a small spray bottle for this, as it is quicker and easier - you are going to do it a couple times during baking as well.
- Allow to rise for about 40.
- After 40 minutes of rising time, preheat the oven to 400º, allowing it to come fully up to that temperature. Place a flat pan with sides a couple inches high on the bottom rack, and fill with boiling water.
- Spray the bread with water again, making sure to wet the entire outside. Use a razor blade or very sharp knife to make diagonal slashes along the top of the loaf.
- Place the sheet pan in the oven, on the upper rack.
- Total baking time is about 30 minutes - spray the loaf with water after 10 minutes, and again 10 minutes after that. You can check for doneness with an instant read thermometer if you like - it will read right around 200 when the bread is done, or bake it until it is well browned all over, and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Remove to cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes - the bread can be cooled fully and wrapped to eat later, or you can slice it up and dive right in.
There you go – pefect, and perfectly easy!
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