From James Beard to Craig Claiborne to here. No offense, but you have not lived until this bread comes out of the oven and settles down next to your Black Bean soup. A little under ten minutes of actual work to go from plain flour to greatness.
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons packaged dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
3 to 4 cups all purpose flour (buy a small 2 pound bag)
Use hot tap water to warm a mixing bowl ( I use a 9" Pyrex) for a few minutes.
When you are ready to start, turn the oven on "Keep Warm" and set the timer for 10 minutes.
Put one cup warm water in the warmed mixing bowl, add the sugar and salt, stir, add the yeast, stir,
then start adding flour straight from the bag, mixing with a wooden spoon.
Add flour and stir until the dough starts to form a ball and pulls away from the bowl. Use your floured hands to pull the dough off the spoon and start forming the dough into a ball, adding more flour as you need it.
Add a layer of flour to your cutting board/countertop, drop the ball of flour on it and start to push and pull the dough until you have a kind springy ball about the size of a small grapefruit. You will be adding sprinklings of flour while you knead.
Leave the ball of flour on the counter while you clean the bowl. Dry the bowl out, put a little olive oil in the bowl, spread it around with your fingers, put the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat with the olive oil.
Put a damp towel over the bowl.
The oven timer should go off about now. The oven needs to be warm , but not hot. You need a warm place (optimum temp is 80 to 85 degrees) to let the yeast work. Open the oven the whole way to let the hottest air out, put the bowl in the oven, shut the door, and wait one hour.
OK. When you open the oven an hour later, the dough should have about doubled in size. If so, dump it onto your floured surface, mold it a little, cut it in two, and shape the dough into round loaves or longish rolls, like French bread.
Put them on a parchment lined baking sheet, and let them rise for five minutes. Then slash the tops crosswise two or three times, and using a brush or paper towel, gently coat the tops with water.
Slip the baking pan into the oven, turn to 400 degrees, and wait 40 to 45 minute until the bread is crusty and brown. Take it out and serve it as soon as you can handle the loaves, only a few minutes.
If ever butter was put to better use, I'd like to know.
Tom David Food Blog: Great vegetarian meals for two hungry people. Every one a winner.
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