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Simple Crusty Bread

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Up until recently, making bread has always felt pretty daunting. I remember as a child, my mom would teach me how to make a sourdough starter from fresh grapes. The process took about two weeks and boy was the bread good. 

While making a starter is definitely on the roadmap, I'm really enjoying the simplicity of this bread recipe below. I love to make it on Sunday and enjoy on it throughout the week. I will say, half the loaf is devoured by the time Sunday evening rolls around. There's nothing better than warm, crusty bread straight from the oven.

This recipe is from the NYTimes. I've made it a few times and am still figuring out my best practices. Ideally you want a crusty exterior and a soft, moist interior. I like a few big air pockets as well! One important note to remember: heat up your baking vessel (love my Le Creuset) in the oven for 20-30 minutes, then place the dough inside to bake. Game changer. Lastly, this recipe makes two large loaves. I say, if you're already making one, make two. Then eat it (or freeze it if you must). 

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ tablespoons yeast
  • 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 6 ½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
  • Cornmeal

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. I place a breathable tea towel on top. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
  2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
  3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.
  4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.