Our friend Chris asked for my bread recipe, and since I’ve been raving about baking bread, I thought I’d also post it here. I won’t promise that it’s foolproof – but it’s solid and not precise, which is probably what makes it solid for me. This recipe is from Jamie’s Dinners, and has been slightly adapted to reflect my experience of making it at least 15-20 times in the last 3-5 years.
For a single loaf:
~3 C flour
1/2 oz yeast
~1 1/2 C warm water
1 T sea salt
1 T sugar
Put the flour in a mixing bowl and create a well in the center. Add half of the water, then pour the yeast, sugar, and salt into the water in the center of the well. Combine slowly, adding enough water to make shaggy dough. I do this in my mixer with the dough hook – you can also do this by hand, but it’s a little messier.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead until lovely and elastic – about 5 minutes if you’re doing it all by hand, about 2 if you’re just finishing off the kneading started in with the dough hook. Place in oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Let rise until doubled. In the winter, I turn the oven on to the lowest temperature and place the bowl with the dough on the counter right next to it to make sure there’s enough warmth to help the dough rise. This usually takes around 40 minutes.
Turn out dough again and work into the shape you want it in for baking. The instructions say to knead again, but I find that just moving the dough around into loaf shape (or whatever) is enough to get the right texture. Place in loaf pan (or however you’re going to bake it) and let rise another 30-40 minutes. I like to line my baking pan with parchment or wax paper as it makes removing the loaf INCREDIBLY easy. Seriously, this is the biggest improvement in my baking in the last month. It’s like a dream world improvement over what I was doing before, which was just greasing the pan. Preheat the oven to 375.
Bake ~40 minutes at 375, or until thumping the bottom of the pan produces a hollow sound. Remove the bread from the pan and let cool on a baking rack. If you used the parchment paper, this is dead easy – it should just lift right out. Slice and enjoy!
I have had baking mishaps with this recipe, but I think the flexibility has made it way better for the way that I bake. If the dough is wet, you can add a bit more flour. If it’s dry, add more water. Etc. The more you bake, the more you’ll get to know the way it should look and feel, and then it’s really easy to make small adjustments. There’s also the no-knead method – but this has been so reliable and so rewarding for me that I don’t see any reason to go another way.