Thanks for pestering me to post this recipe! This recipe is so easy and convenient that it's almost criminal. Really. It only takes about 20 minutes to whip of the basic dough, and two hours to let it rise out on the countertop. Then, add a date to the bucket and shove it into the fridge. Pull it out, pull off as many hunks as you need, and great ready to accept complements.
There's really not much to say about this recipe as it's so straightforward and simple. You might need to acquire a few of the optional items that I've listed in the recipe, but if that's not convenient, hey, just go for basic white bread flour and whole wheat flour from the cheapo bins at Winco.
I recommend heading over to your local restaurant supply store for some very inexpensive lidded buckets as you see in the photo. I put the bucket on my kitchen scale, weigh (dry ingredients) and measure yeast, salt and water into it, mix and store in the fridge.
If you're going to do much baking, I urge you to learn to measure your dry ingredients by weight. Accuracy matters in baking. Plus, I use metric - grams - since it's soooooo much easier to measure and scale a recipe.
I've had this Salter digital kitchen scale for years. It makes measuring a snap, especially when you can measure out, say white flour, then tap the Tare button (zero it out) and keep adding other types of flour.
After you've measured and mixed the dough, set it on the counter, cover and let it rise for 2 hours while you get on with your life. Once it's risen, you can bake with the dough immediately, or put it in the fridge. Remember to label the container with the date you made the dough. It's good for two weeks.
When you are ready to bake bread or rolls, flour your hands and a work surface thoroughly. I work on a heavy wooden cutting board.
Then, pull of hunks of dough and gently roll them out on the floured board. Don't get heavy handed. As the dough ball is floured, you can begin to shape it - round, oblong, baguette. I even do round flattish pucks for sandwich rolls.
You can find many different baking toys online these days. I love the silicone bun forms, and the perforated baguette form works just great.
Put your shaped dough on a floured piece of cooking parchment and let it rest on the counter for 40 minutes. You don't need to cover it. While this is happening, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.
See how the slashes on the top are opening up during the oven rise? This is why you slash the tops of bread (and add hot water for steam). A really sharp knife will do in a pinch, but a razor blade is far better. I use a bakers Lame.
Bake your bread for a minimum of 20 minutes to about 30 minutes. I prefer 30 minutes based on my oven. And, I like what the French refer to as bien cûit - well cooked. I want a really brown, crisp crust.
When you pull the bread out of the oven, resist the temptation to slice right into it! Let it cool for at least 30 minutes to an hour. If you're going to freeze your bread, let it cool for a couple of hours. Then, I just pop it into a heavy ziplock freezer bag and toss it in the freezer. To use, let it either defrost overnight on the counter, or you can defrost a loaf in the microwave. It normally takes about 3 minutes - and I turn the loaf over a couple of times.
Defrosted bread can be reheated at about 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. Your times will vary. Oh, and I'll often slice larger loaves before freezing so that I can pull out just what I need for a meal. Or, just make smaller loaves.
See? All the options are yours!