By Jacob Naasz
One of my favorite smells, besides pine forests and old books, is fresh baked bread. For the longest time though, I could only get my fresh bread fix by going to various restaurants with free bread options which was usually less than satisfying. So I’ve taken it upon myself to solve this problem and have been baking my own bread at home the past few months. I find it incredibly satisfying to make and while it takes a bit of planning ahead of time, it’s relatively easy to do. Plus my wife loves it so bonus points there.
The recipe I follow is a very simple one.
2 and ½ cups of flour
1 and ½ cups of lukewarm water
1 teaspoon of active yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
8 ½ x 4 ½ baking pan (also called a 1 pound bread pan)
Bread Scrape (optional)
Place all of these ingredients into a bowl and mix together. I cheat a bit and use our stand mixer with a bread hook on it which also takes out the process of kneading it, but if you don’t have a stand mixer kneading is easy to do too. Once the mixture is nice and doughy and everything is evenly distributed, flour a clean surface and fold and push the dough around. The dough should end up very sticky and stays together well if you pull your fingers apart.
Once that’s done put it in a bowl, cover it with a towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 2-3 hours. Make sure your bowl is big enough! I made the mistake of not having a big enough bowl the first time I made this recipe and had dough everywhere to clean up.
After the 2-3 hours the dough should be about double the size that it started at. Heat your oven to 425 degree and put your dough in a bread pan. This recipe make about a pound so a 8 ½ x 4 ½ pan works great. To help get the dough in the pan I use a tool called a bread scrape, but your fingers or a spatula work fine too depending on how messy you don’t mind getting. Sprinkle some flour the top of the dough and cut a slit along the top of the dough about a quarter inch deep. This will allow the bread to rise more.
Once the oven is hot stick the bread in for 30-35 minutes depending on your crust preference. Once it’s done remove and let it cool a bit before slicing into it. This will give the bread a chance to stiffen a bit. I usually just wait as long as I can stand it before jumping in and cutting a piece.