Along with the soups that I make each week, I also bake up a few loaves of bread. It sounds far more complicated than it really is. The bread is a simple recipe that I adapted from Jim Lahey’s book, My Bread . His recipe is already incredibly easy. The baking involves preheating a Dutch oven to achieve a crispy crust. This makes a delicious and incredibly satisfying loaf. But I wanted to be able to make more than one loaf at a time and in different sizes. The result is bread with a softer crust and one that yeilds a number of small loaves that you can share or hoard for yourself. I call it “Everyday Bread” because I eat it every morning toasted with butter and jam and sometimes for lunch with melted ham and cheese. It’s the perfect vehicle for whatever I can find in my refrigerator.
Timing for bread baking can be tricky when you have a busy schedule. Since the initial rise for this bread is 12-18 hours, I mix this dough around dinner time the night before I plan to bake it. Then I form the loaves super early in the morning, allowing for the next (2 hour) rise and 30 minute bake. If you will not be able to do the second rise and bake in the morning, mix the dough before you go to bed. The next day, after work, form the loaves, let rise for 2 hours and bake. Try to make bread baking work even if you have a crazy busy schedule….it’s worth it.
(Makes 2 round loaves)
3 1/2 cups (450 grams) all-purpose flour, plus about 1/2 cup more for forming the loaves
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups luke warm water
Combine 3 1/2 cups (450 grams) flour, sea salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add water while stirring to create a sticky dough. ( I use a stiff rubber spatula for this job.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave in a draft free spot in the kitchen. Allow dough to rise for 12 to 18 hours.
After the dough has risen, dust your countertop generously with flour (about 1/2 cup). Using a stiff rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto the floured area. Flip the dough around gently to cover all of it with flour. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Gently cut dough in half with a bench scraper or sharp knife. Form the two halves of dough into loose rounds without overworking the dough. Place a few inches apart on the cookie sheet. Loosely cover with a tea towel and allow to rise again for two hours.
After one and a half hours, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Once the dough has risen for two hours and the oven has preheated for thirty minutes, slash the tops of each loaf two or three times across the top with a sharp knife. Place the loaves in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the loaves are golden brown. You can cook them for longer if you like a darker crust and a firmer loaf. Once the bread is cooked, place the loaves on a cooling rack for at least an hour before slicing. After the bread is completely cooled, store in plastic bags and eat within 5 days.