I love bread. Any kind of bread. White bread, wheat bread, Cuban, French and Italian baguettes, croissants, bagels, croutons, even panko bread crumbs...you get the idea.
I've always wanted to make real bread but the recipes are usually pretty intimidating. I've done beer bread, but wanted more.
The issues? The water for the yeast has to be at the perfect temperature - too hot it'll kill the yeast, too cold it won't "activate". Then it has to rise. Some recipes call from anywhere from a couple of hours to almost a day. At some point it has to be punched down and the rise again - some recipes you repeat this and it sits over night. Then there's shaping and baking.
The time thing was the biggest obstacle for me. 24 hours notice? Really? If I want a loaf for Sunday Supper, I've got to plan it Friday night? Usually what happens is I'll decide I want to go get adventurous and attempt a cooking project on Saturday morning for dinner that night. No can do with most recipes. Then I found this one. 5 hours or so - I could do that.
The loaves turned out perfect. It had a crisp crust and light on the inside. When it had cooled, you could slice it and use for sandwiches. I'll be making this again.
2 Packages Dry Yeast
2 1/2 Cups Warm Water
1 tsp. Sugar
6 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
Make sure your water is between 110 and 115 degrees. Put warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle yeast and sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes or so - yeast should start to bubble (or that's what the recipe says - I stirred it all together and waited 5 minutes, it was still fine.)
Stir in 2 cups of flour and salt, cover and let rise for 30 minutes. Gradually add the remaining flour, maybe 1 cup at a time, until you have a soft dough (you might not need it all - or you might need a little more - if dough it too sticky to handle add a little more flour.) Roll dough out on a floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes - this consists of punching the dough flat with the heel of your palm, then folding it over and repeating - for 10 minutes. Yes it gets tedious, but it needs (no pun intended) to be done.
Place dough in a greased bowl, cover the dough and let rise for 2 1/2 hours - it should more than double in size.
When dough has risen, use your fist and punch down the dough and divide in half. Using a rolling pin, roll out one piece of dough to a 12 x 6 inch rectangle. On the 12 inch side, roll dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Use your fingers to seal the ends and the creases. Repeat for second loaf.
Grease a cookie sheet and dust with cornmeal. Place your dough on the cookie sheet, cover and let rise for another hour.
Preheat over to 425. Make a few slashes across the top of the loaves for artistic effect. I also brushed with a egg white wash for a shinier crust.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until loaves are golden brown. You'll know they're done when you knock on the crust and it sounds hollow.
Let cool on a wire rack and enjoy! If you can't wait for the cooling start spreading butter on the hot bread and enjoy sooner!