Joe and I love bread! I also enjoy making bread. It's a good marriage! The recipe that I mainly use is adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg. It's a fantastic book and anyone who enjoys baking bread should really buy this book for all of the awesome recipes. The following is a slight adaptation of his basic recipe. It's easy and affordable! Two adjectives I love.
To start with you'll need a large mixing bowl, a whisk, a one cup and a tablespoon measuring tools, a wooden spoon, and a baking sheet. You'll also need flour, yeast, salt, water and corn meal for the baking sheet.
Turn on your tap water and let it get hot. Measure out three cups of hot water into the bowl. Add 1.5 tablespoons of yeast and salt. (A note here, I much prefer the jars of yeast to the packets, but either will work.) Add 1 cup of flour and use the whisk to mix it. Add 1 more up of flour and mix with the whisk. Now you will switch to the wooden spoon for mixing. At this point I add the next two to three cups of flour mixing with the spoon. Add a total of 6 cups of flour by the end and mix it as much as you can with the spoon. You will notice that the dough won't fully mix at this point. That's okay. Get your fingers really wet with tap water and use your hands to finish mixing the dough. If you notice that it's really sticky add about a half cup of flour and mix again with your hands. The dough should end up elastic and smooth.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and leave it on the counter for two to four hours. It will rise pretty quickly. There is no need to punch it down or kneed it. Just let it rise until you're ready to bake it.
Kitchenaide stand mixer directions! Put the same amount of water, yeast and salt into the mixing bowl. Add 7cups of flour directly into it right away. This needs more flour because it will mix more thoroughly than by hand. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and turn it on to stir or 2, no more! Let it mix for about two minutes. It should again feel elastic and smooth. You may have to add more flour. Sometimes I let it stay a little sticky.
When you're ready to bake the bread preheat the oven to 425. This heat makes the bread nice and crusty but soft inside. Get out a baking sheet and put a quick layer of corn meal on it. This will keep the bread from sticking to the pan and give it that store bought look on the bottom.
Sprinkle the dough with some flour. Use a bread knife and cut off a large softball size of the risen dough. Quickly shape it into a French bread loaf. I just roll it on a clean flour covered counter into a long tube. Put it onto the baking sheet and use the bread knife again to put quick cuts on the top of the bread. I put a one inch long slash about every two inches. This is what makes it have that cool rustic French bread look.
You can let it rise for another twenty minutes, or sometimes I honestly just put it in the oven if it is already hot enough. Put the bread in the oven for 20 minutes. It should come out golden on top. If it's not keep it in for another 3-5 minutes. Sometimes I put a half cup of water into a Pyrex baking dish into the oven along with the bread to keep more of the moisture in the bread.
Take it out and let it sit for about five minutes before you cut it with a bread knife. You can also tear it with your hands for a more rustic experience. Enjoy warm and plain or with cheese, butter or dipping oil.
You can make one loaf or four. If you have leftover dough, just put it in an airtight container in the fridge until the next time you want to make a fresh loaf of bread. Cut off another piece and this time let it sit on the pan for 40 minutes before you put it in the oven to rise again. It can stay in the fridge for up to two weeks. It will take on different flavor characteristics as it ages and taste more like sourdough.
I made four loaves tonight for dinner at the family resort with the extended family and some reviews of the bread were "Excellent." "Mmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm!" "The definition of aromatic." "Very delicious."
Let me know how it turns out! Post a picture and your own reviews.