Rather than reinvent the wheel, here's the King Arthur Flour recipe. The blog is full of tips and variations. My blog chronicles my various attempts - all good - the longer rests yielding tastier loaves. The link is for the larger recipe. For 1 loaf, see below. The ingredients and general preparation are very simple. Best results come from the nuances you'll pick up each time you make it.
15.8 ounces of unbleached all-purpose flour (If you measure flour by sprinkling it into your measuring cup, then gently sweeping off the excess, use 7 1/2 cups. If you measure flour by dipping your cup into the canister, then sweeping off the excess, use 6 1/2 cups.)
2 1/4t yeast (one package of instant or active dry yeast)
2t kosher salt
1.5C warm water
Stir together in a large bowl or food-safe plastic bucket. Cover, and let rise for 2 hours at room temp, then put it in the fridge for a week. If you're in a rush, see the links for variations on time (I tried 6 hours, 3, 5, and 7 days - 7 being the tastiest). But IMO, if you're going to bake your own bread, take the time to do it right.
When you're ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge and dump it our on a floured work surface. Shape it into a ball - doesn't have to be perfect - dust with more flour, and let it rest for about an hour.
After 30 minutes, heat your oven to 450' F. If you're using a pizza stone or dutch oven, heat them in the oven for the full 30 minutes. If you're using a sheet pan, grease it or line it with parchment, and place the dough on it to rise.
If you're NOT using a dutch oven: Place a shallow metal pan (brownie pan or broiling pan) on the bottom rack of the oven (under your pizza stone). Have 1C hot water ready.
Just before baking, slash 2-3 cuts into the dough with a sharp knife or razor. This will help it expand and rise as it bakes, and will give you a beautiful crust.
If using a dutch oven, carefully drop the dough into your heated dutch oven and bake it covered for 20 minutes, then remove the lid for the last 10.
If using a pizza stone, slide the dough onto your pizza stone. Pour the hot water into the pan below, and close the oven quickly.
If using a baking sheet, place the sheet on the top rack, and pour the hot water into the pan below, and close the oven quickly.
Bake for 25-35 minutes at 450' until the crust is deep golden brown and a thermometer reads 205'.
Cool on a rack for at least 2 hours. If you cut into a loaf before it cools, the texture will turn heavy and gummy. If you have to, leave the house so you aren't tempted.
Store the loaf in a paper bag inside a plastic bag at room temperature. Make amazing toast, BLT's, grilled cheese, and more!
|Weighing Flour for Accuracy|
|After 2-hour Proof at Room Temp|