There is no better, more reassuring and reliable snack than fresh bread topped with butter, jam or perhaps a nice brie.  For the longest time, I thought baking bread was too complicated, skill intensive and time consuming to even begin to consider, but this recipe is so basic that I find myself enjoying a small loaf for breakfast or lunch a few times a week!  I typically make a large batch of dough in advance and keep in the refrigerator all week to have on hand, simply throwing a small loaf in the oven while I get ready in the morning!

Ingredients:

2.5-3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dry yeast

1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup warm water (120-130° F)
rosemary & thyme to taste (optional)
A pinch of sea salt (optional)
Hot water in a cake pan for baking

1_1 mixing dry ingredients

Begin by mixing half of the flour with the yeast, brown sugar, rosemary, thyme and salt.  Pour in the hot water (not scalding!) and stir for a few minutes (around 100 strokes, it isn’t has arduous as it sounds!) until well mixed and sticky.

3_kneading

Stir in the remaining flour until the dough loses its stickiness.  Turn dough onto a flour-covered surface and knead for about 8 minutes, dusting with flour as sticky surfaces reveal themselves.  This is the perfect time to go over your mental to-do lists, catch up on some daydreaming, or practice your big solo to the radio.  I actually love to knead bread when I’m under a lot of stress, as it can get pretty zen folding dough over and over upon itself.

5_risen

Place the dough in a greased or floured bowl and cover with a warm damp cloth.  Let rise for at least 15 minutes (although it only gets bigger and better over the course of 45 minutes) in a warm spot away from drafts.

Punch down the dough and shape into a round loaf.  Place the loaf on a baking sheet dusted with flour (or cornmeal is even better).  With a wet, sharp knife, cut an X one half inch deep in the loaf, or get creative!  Sprinkle the top with sea salt, and maybe even some more rosemary or thyme.

7_baked close up

Place the baking sheet in the middle of a cold oven.  On the lowest shelf, place a pan of hot water.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees and back for 30-50 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

8_cooling optional

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