My friends, I have a confession to make. *Takes a deep breath…*
I have never baked bread before.
*Looks away in shame*
That’s right. I, Miss Foodie McBooty, was so intimidated by the IDEA of baking bread that I’ve steered clear of any recipe and given every bread-maker the stink eye. Now, I’ve successfully made denser breads like banana bread before so I’m not sure what I was so afraid of. I guess it’s because I have such a hard time with dough, that I had accepted the fact that bread making wasn’t a part of my DNA… until now.
I discovered the easiest, practically fool-proof loaf of bread recipe that you can make at home. No bread maker necessary! This bread is wonderful in all the right ways in all the right places. The outside is rustic and crusty while the inside is chewy and delicate. Who knew that such a beautiful thing could be created with little elbow grease and some patience? Well, someone knew… I just hadn’t made it myself yet.
All you need for this recipe to work is a dutch oven (or I used the stone pot from my crock pot and covered it with an oven safe lid).
3 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
1½ tsp salt
½ tsp active dry yeast
1½ cups warm water (not hot, feels room temperature when touched)
In a large glass bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast. Stir in the water with a wooden spoon until a shaggy looking ball forms. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise for 12-18 hours on your countertop. Alternatively, you can place the bowl in the oven with only the light turned on. The dough should rise in about 6 to 8 hours like this.
After that time, your dough should look moist, bubbly and almost doubled in size. Take a spatula and plop the dough onto a floured surface. Wet your hands (to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands) and grab the dough and fold over all ends toward the middle. Turn the dough over so you get a nice, smooth, tight surface. Gently move the dough onto a floured towel or parchment paper. Cover loosely and let nap for another 2 hours. It should puff up nicely in size.
A half hour before the nap ends, pre-heat your oven to 450ºF with a rack in the middle position.
Place a large Dutch oven, with the lid on, into the pre-heated oven to warm for 30 minutes. You can also use any large, lidded cast iron or pyrex dish, so long as it can handle 450ºF.
Place the dough ball into the heated Dutch oven, put the lid on, and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and return to the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown, sounds hollow when knocked on, and an instant-read thermometer registers between 190ºF and 210ºF.