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!
2.5-3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon brown sugar
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
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.
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.
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.
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!