i love fresh bread. i love bread, period. but fresh bread is so much better. and maybe it's just me, but when i make bread, it tastes better than when you do. not saying you make bad bread, just saying that i taste my homemadeness in my bread.
the thing is, making fresh bread takes time. hours. sometimes days. so, without a breadmaker, it's not that easy to make a good loaf of fresh, artisan-style bread, especially when you think at 5pm that you'd like it with your dinner at 5:40.
i found a way. i am amazed by this bread. it's my new favorite. and you can make so many variations that you could easily make bread to have as french toast, or cinnamon bread, or wheat bread, or sourdough.
i did not make up this recipe. it came from this site. i am, however, providing you with my version of it, including my tips and tricks that i found with working with this dough.
3 cups warm water
1.5 T salt
1.5 T yeast
6.5 cups flour
in a bowl that has a lid (it needs to be a pretty large bowl), mix the warm water (i just got hot water out of my tap) along with the salt and the yeast. it's not important to get it all dissolved.
**at this point, you can add any herbs or spices you wish. or leave it plain. up to you**(i added garlic powder and dried rosemary. i can't wait to do this with fresh herbs)
add the flour to the water mixture, and mix it with a wooden spoon just until it's all wet. don't over mix it. it ends up being a pretty soft dough that conforms to the bowl.
set it on the counter with the lid just resting on it (don't seal it tight) for a few hours. up to five, i think the recipe says. i did it for about two. then move it to the fridge, where it will rise. it's supposed to be in the fridge for a few hours before use, but the blog that reviewed this bread said they didn't wait and it turned out fine. i'd let it sit because it grew in size by about 50%.
when you're ready to make a loaf of bread, get the oven ready first. preheat to 450 degrees, and put the baking sheet in the middle of the oven, and the broiler pan on the lowest rack so they both get hot. dust the top of the dough with flour, then use a serrated knife to cut off about 1/4 of the dough. use your flour-dusted hands to curl the ends under it a few times, so it is a ball with the "loose" ends tucked under it (i did this on a piece of parchment paper so i could just move the paper into the oven on the baking sheet). dust the top of the ball with flour, and using the serrated knife, slice a few times in the top. when the oven is nice and hot, put the dough on the baking rack, and add about 1.5-2 cups of hot water to the broiler pan for steam. bake for 30 minutes.
when it came out of the oven, it was really crispy on the outside, and very chewy on the inside. to make the crust softer, i put it in a ziploc bag while still warm and it softened just enough.
warning: the bread is not light. it is dense and chewy... and DELICIOUSLY ADDICTING.