Baking bakery -quality bread in your home oven – without any special equipment -is a lot easier than you’d ever guess. A few tips and tricks guarantee impressive artisan-style loaves that no one will ever believe you didn’t bring home from France this morning. You can find fresh yeast at most grocery stores (usually near the eggs) but if you can’t get your hands on some, substitute dry yeast and combine it with the water as a first step.
This recipe was featured on the Holiday Special of The Farm on Public Television.
Makes 2 loaves
41/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon fresh yeast, crumbled
13/4 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
Place the flour in the bowl of a mixer, then crumble the yeast into the flour with your hands. Add the water and salt to the bowl, then mix with a paddle attachment on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is elastic and has formed a ball around the paddle, about 5 minutes.
Scrape the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Lightly flour the bowl. Working with floured hands, pull the edge of the dough up and into the center of the dough. Work all the way around the dough, pressing the edges into the center, forming a ball. Place the ball back in the bowl, smooth-side-up. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise at warm room temperature, until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Scrape the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Working with floured hands, shape the dough into a rough rectangle, then pull a long edge of the dough up and into the center of the dough. Repeat with the other long edge, folding the dough like a letter. Cut the dough in half.
Flour a baking sheet.
Working with 1 half of dough at a time, fold a long edge of the dough into the center, pressing down to form a spine of the loaf. Repeat this folding once or twice more until the dough is the length of the baking sheet. Transfer to the dough to the floured baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 1/2 of the dough. Flour the loaves, then loosely cover with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise at warm room temperature until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Flour the dough again, then using a pair of kitchen sheers, make a long diagonal cut near one side of the dough, almost the bottom of the dough. Fold the cut dough over to one side of the loaf. Repeat cutting the dough ever 3 inches, and folding in opposite directions, until the dough is the shape of a wheat stalk. This will take 4 to 6 cuts.
Place an ice cube in the bottom of the oven and bake the bread until it is dark golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped, about 40 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Then reheat until warm if desired or cut and use for dressing.