I've lost count of what day in quarantine this is but it seems like everyone is taking a stab at baking bread, so I've jumped on the bandwagon. I find baking to be so therapeutic and at times like this we need all the therapy we can get. I did a little experiment so I'm sharing what I have found to be the best and easiest way to make bread.
The bread from my first attempt was very dense, soggy tasting, lacked crust, and did not have much flavor, basically the opposite of what you want. On my second attempt I used bread flour instead of all purpose, which made the flavor a lot better and I kneaded the bread for a while and let it rise for about 2 hours. This recipe actually turned out fine but I found that it was still too dense for my liking. What I realized was that time is the most important ingredient. The longer I let the bread rise, the more time the yeast had to work its magic and the better the air pockets and texture became. Also I left the dough alone and did not knead it at all. Instead, I folded the dough over itself about 5 times every hour or so. I found that not kneading the dough made the bread a little softer on the inside. I also preferred baking in a pre-heated dutch oven instead of a buttered loaf pan because it helped create the perfect crust.
Ultimately, this is the recipe that won. It takes about 5-6 hours but it‘s mostly hands-off, so its perfect for days that you‘re doing chores around the house or working from home. I didn't even use my kitchen aid so really all you need is a bowl, yeast, flour, water, and salt. This bread can be used to make just about anything, including sandwiches, avocado toast, french toast, or a strata. I made peanut butter toast with sliced banana and honey.
I find it so satisfying when something you put so much time and love into comes out tasting like pure perfection and wraps you in a little hug. Thats how I feel about making this bread recipe and I hope it gives you just as much happiness as it does me. Bon Appetit!
2 2/3 cups warm water (not too hot touch)
4 3/4 cups flour
1 tbs salt
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tbs melted butter
In a small bowl, add the yeast and warm water, mix and let sit for about 5-10 minutes. The yeast should start bubbling up a bit
In a large bowl mix the salt and flour and make a well in the center
Pour the water/yeast mixture into the center of flour and mix with one hand, making sure that every bit of flour is equally mixed, this should take about 5 minutes
Cover with tea towel and let sit for 20 minutes then fold dough over itself about 5 times
Cover with towel and let sit for 1 hour, then fold over dough another 5 times
Cover with towel and let sit for 2 more hours, then fold over a few more times.
Re-cover and pre-heat oven to 475 degrees, when heated, place empty dutch oven into oven for 30 minutes
Flour surface and dump dough and flip a few times to cover. Shape into large ball
Spray Dutch oven with non-stick or olive oil spray and dump dough in
Using a sharp knife make an "X" in the dough then brush top with meted butter
Cover with lid and place in over for 30 minutes
Remove lid and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes
Remove from oven and place bread on cooking rack
Cool for 30 minutes before slicing