I am about to make you all look like geniuses. Like the apple galette from last week, sometimes it’s nice to have a recipe in your pocket that looks fancy but is in actuality easy to make, and a lot faster than you’d think. For example, there was a big family dinner at my cousin B’s house, and I texted her to say that The Boy and I would both be there, and could I bring something? She suggested “Maybe some nice fresh bread?” Well, me being me, I decided to take the more difficult path. After deciding that buying a baguette was not nearly interesting enough, I thought “I can make bread. Surely there’s an easy recipe out there I can make from start to finish in a couple hours.”
This was sort of a foolish thought – most bread needs time alone to rise for a couple hours, at least if you’re going have the kneaded kind. But in searching my recipe emails, I came across one that billed itself as “Super Easy”. This I could probably do. And I did! And it looked so good (like the kind of artisanal bread you would get at a bakery), and I got so many compliments on it. I had to keep telling everyone – “No – but it wasn’t that big a deal!” In the future, maybe I won’t do that. I’ll take the praise, and let people assume I slaved in the kitchen for hours, pounding dough, carefully tending the oven. Because I definitely plan on making this bread again.
Now, a couple of notes: the yeast I had beforehand was a few years expired. Make sure you use fresh yeast, as that helps the most (I used Instant aka Easy Bake yeast). I also don’t own a pizza stone, so instead just used a metal pizza pan. This mostly worked fine, as my bread didn’t collapse or anything. Finally, I didn’t have any cornmeal, so instead sprinkled the pan with flour to keep the dough from sticking. This only partially worked, as when I took the loaf off the pan, there was a small patch left behind. This was definitely good for tasting (you know, to make sure I don’t poison anyone), but if you want a perfect loaf, cornmeal is your friend. Finally, the water pan is very important. Don’t leave it out when you’re baking.
Super Easy Crusty Bread
Yield: 1 medium loaf, with about 2 dozen large pieces (???)
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 package)
2 tsp salt
3 1/4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
corn meal for dusting stone
In a large bowl, and the water, yeast, and salt and stir until combined. Add the flour and stir until incorporated. Work the dough with the spoon until the lumps are gone.
Place a towel or plastic wrap over the bowl and set in a draft free spot for 2 hours.
Pre-heat oven to 450 F. Place a pizza stone in the center of the oven to warm as well. Add 2 cups of water in an oven-safe dish and place in the rack below the pizza stone. This will create steam and give that nice crust you are looking for.
Once the dough has risen, form into a ball and sprinkle flour on top. Make 2 or 3 slices on the top of the bread.
Sprinkle the pizza stone with corn meal or flour and place the dough on top. Bake for 30 minutes.
From: “Super Easy Crusty Bread” from The Way to His Heart