The smell of bread baking in the oven is one of life’s great pleasures. Sometimes I want a soft sandwich bread, and sometimes I want a crusty bread. Either way, I need the bread to be made around my schedule, and that’s exactly what I can do with this recipe. I often start it before dinner, then I can enjoy a nice piece of warm bread slathered with butter as a nighttime snack.
This bread is perfect for dunking into a bowl of soup, dipping into flavored olive oil, sopping up tomato sauce or making a panini. It tastes best the day it is made, pretty good the second day, perfect for toast on the third day. It can also be frozen. If it is frozen, I will warm it back up in the oven and it will taste good as fresh for dinner. If defrosted and reheated I would recommend using it immediately.
A perfect beginner loaf, as it is very forgiving, and will still taste great even if you make a mistake along the way. If you haven’t baked bread before, try kneading by hand, it will give you a much better idea of how the dough should feel. A well kneaded dough will be smooth, not sticky. However resist the urge to add too much flour, it will make your finished bread dry. Gently dust the surface with flour and push the dough away from you, fold over and repeat. If you’d like a video tutorial, there is a great one here.
Here is your completely kneaded dough. It needs to rise in a warm spot for about an hour, but it can be left longer if needed.
After it has risen, you can punch it down and form into a circle or oblong shape. Shape by gathering the sides of your dough up and pinching together. Flip the dough over so the seam is on the bottom. For the second rise, keep a close eye on the bread, if it over-rises at this point it will deflate when cooking.
After the second rise, you need to score your bread. This will allow the bread to rise higher in the oven, and rise in the direction of the cuts. You need an extremely sharp knife to score the loaves, I use a very sharp serrated bread knife. You can have some fun with the patterns, there is no right way.
Now it is time to load them into the preheated oven. Bake at 400º for 30 minutes.
Finally, it’s time for that snack. You should let it cool before slicing, but I’ll leave that up to you. Better cut a few pieces though, it’s amazing how many faces pop into the kitchen as soon as the bread comes out of the oven. Sometimes I feel like the little red hen…
Tips and Substitutions:
- The amount of water necessary can vary depending on the season and your climate. Generally, if the air is dry (winter) you will need more water and if the air is moist (summer) you will need less.
- The dough can take longer than one hour to rise if it is not in a warm spot.