BREAD FOR DUMMIES
BY AMANDA DELAURA
Makes 1 medium loaf
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
2 1/4 tsp sea salt
3 1/4 cups organic bread flour
Mix the water, yeast and salt together in a bowl with a whisk or fork. Add the flour to the bowl and using a wooden spoon mix until all of the ingredients are just combined. Do not knead or over mix.
Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough sit in a warm environment for two hours. This is called your "bulk proof". If your counter space is drafty, heat your oven at 350ºF for barely three minutes and immediately turn it off so that it does not become too hot. Let your covered dough rise in the warm oven. IF YOUR OVEN IS TOO HOT, you will kill your yeast production. So be sure to not over heat your oven.
3. After your dough has proofed, remove the dough from the oven and preheat it to 450ºF. Place one high quality rimmed baking sheet on the bottom of your oven (this will need to be rimmed as you are pouring water into it later). Take an additional baking sheet, cover with parchment paper, dust with flour and set aside on the counter.
4. Oil your hands, punch all of the air out of the dough and tightly shape it into a round ball by pinching it under itself to create a seam at the bottom. Place the shaped dough, seam side down, on the prepared lined baking sheet and let your dough rise uncovered a second time for 30 minutes. This is called your "batch proof". I often leave the rising dough on the stove instead of the counter, as it is a warm environment due to the heating oven.
5. After the dough has proofed a second time, dust the surface of the loaf with more flour and slice across the top 2-4 times with a very sharp knife, creating an insertion into the dough that is about one quarter to one half inch deep. Place the bread on the middle rack of the oven and immediately pour a cup of water into the empty preheated pan on the bottom of the oven. Close the door quickly and bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it with your fingers or until the temperature reads 200ºF if using a thermometer. The water in the bottom pan will create steam in the oven that will cause the bread to have a beautiful crunchy crust.
6. Let the bread cool for 30 minutes before slicing and slathering with softened butter.
NOTE: To everyone who tells me they can't make bread or work with yeast, please please PLEASE try this recipe before you totally give up on live cultures. This bread is 100% fool proof and comes out fantastic every single time. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
I use bread flour but you will reach a very similar result with all purpose flour. You can also substitute 1 to 2 cups of the all purpose flour or bread flour for whole wheat flour or spelt flour to create more of a nutty flavor.
Lastly you can make your dough ahead of time (or make multiple batches at a time) and store in the fridge for up to two weeks. The longer the dough sits, the more time the yeast has to increase fermentation and allow your dough to enhance/resemble the taste of sourdough. If you wish to make ahead of time just be sure to allow it to rise on the counter for 15 to 30 minutes longer so that the dough can come to room temperature.