So, I planned to make a new crock pot recipe this week (look for it on Wednesday or Thursday), and the cookbook recommended I serve it with a crusty bread. And just a couple weeks ago, the King Arthur Flour blog (my baking blog/flour brand of choice) posted a recipe for a crusty loaf that looked ridiculously easy. And guess what?
I didn't plan to post the recipe here, so I didn't take any pictures of the process, but you can find step-by-step instructions and the recipe at www.kingarthurflour.com/blog. But after I baked the bread this morning and sliced into it this afternoon, and then subsequently devoured the entire loaf and didn't leave any for dinner, I figured I should probably post it, because it's AMAZING.
So, thanks, KAF, for this delicious, simple, amazing bread. Now go forth, and make it immediately.
You will need:
A big freaking bowl.
A wooden spoon.
I don't know what the difference is between instant yeast and active dry yeast, but active dry is what I keep in my fridge and what I will always use. KAF noted that they used instant yeast for this recipe, but I went with my standard Red Star active dry, and I had excellent results.
So anyway, in your big freaking bowl, combine 32 ounces of flour (two pounds, or six and a half to seven and a half cups), one and a half tablespoons of yeast, one tablespoon of salt, and three cups of lukewarm water.
Stir, stir, stir until it all comes together. I got in there with my hands for a couple minutes. And then cover it with a towel and walk away. Let it rise for a couple hours at room temp, and then stick it in the fridge for at least two hours, and up to a week or so.
When you're ready to make the bread, reach in and pull out a big handful of dough. Shape it into a ball or a loaf and slap it on a lightly greased baking sheet and let it rise for an hour. It won't rise upwards very much, but it'll come to room temperature and settle nicely.
Preheat your oven to 450F and slice the bread with a sharp knife. Put a shallow pan on the lowest rack of your oven, and get one cup of hot water ready to go.
When it's time, put the bread in the oven and pour the hot water into the shallow pan on the bottom. Shut the oven door quickly! The water will steam, and the steam will settle on the bread, and it'll make for a nice, crunchy, chewy crust. Mmmmm....
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the bread is a deep golden brown. Then let it cool on a rack and slice into it. And enjoy it!
I baked mine for 34 minutes, which was probably a touch too long, and my crust got just a tiny bit burned on the top. But friends, I can't even tell you how delicious this bread is. It's dense, chewy, moist, flavorful, and excellent in every way. Oh, and when I put it on the cooling rack, it started making adorable little crackling noises! Precious.
P.S. If you're not planning to bake all the dough at once, you should probably cover your dough with plastic wrap or something to keep it from totally drying out.
Now...ready for pictures? Look how pretty my bread is!