I recently paid $9 for a loaf of bread – it was really beautiful, but it didn’t taste like a $9 loaf of bread. But this one sure does! I’d even bump that up to an $11 loaf.
AND . . . it is so easy to make! You just mix up the flour, salt, yeast and sugar the night before and leave it to do its thing The next day you do one more quick step a few hours hours before baking, and in the end you get this beautiful, delicious, and inexpensive bread. It has a thick dark crust, and a moist and tender inside, and the smell as you’re cutting it and taking that first bite is heavenly.
For this recipe you need a lidded baker; the trapped steam helps to develop a crust. I use a Romertopf clay roaster (see special instructions) which helps to create an excellent crust because of the moisture stored in the clay. I have also used a lidded le Creuset pot, but I would imagine you could use a tall cast-iron pan covered with foil… I’ll let you know when I try this out!
What you need:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 & 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 & 1/3 cups water, room temperature
What you do:
- In a large bowl combine the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir just until it comes together. It will look a bit shaggy, but it’s fine.
- Loosely cover the bowl with a lid, plate or plastic wrap and leave in a room temperature spot for 12 to 18 hours. Eighteen-ish hours is preferable, especially if it’s a little cooler in your place. In winter it can be helpful to put the bowl in a warmer spot, like on top of a fridge.
- About two hours before baking time, generously flour a tea towel (not a terry cloth one, as the dough sticks too much). Use a spatula to coax the dough out of the bowl, and then use floured hands to gently form it into a loaf, and place it seam-side down onto the floured towel. Sprinkle with a little more flour, then gently place another towel over the top. Allow this to sit for about 2 hours.
- About 1/2 an hour before baking turn the oven to 450°F/ 232°C. (If using a Romertopf/clay baker, make sure you have pre-soaked it, and then placed it in the oven BEFORE turning the oven on.)
- When the oven is ready gently place the dough, seam side down, into the lidded baker. Use a sharp knife to make a few slashes a few centimetres deep into the top of the bread.
- Place the lid on the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. After that time remove the lid and bake for 15-25 minutes. The crust should be dark, and the bread should sound hollow when you tap it.
- Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack for about an hour. When it is hot it will be too sticky inside to but, but after an hour there should still be some warmth.
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