1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups warm water (not over 110°F)
5 1/2 to 6 cups All-Purpose Flour
To mix: Mix together the first four ingredients. Let this stand until the yeast, sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the flour to the liquid and mix thoroughly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface to knead. (I used my dough hook and my Kitchen-Aid Stand Mixer to do most of the work mixing on a low setting).
Knead It: Fold the far edge of the dough back over on itself towards you. Press into the dough with the heels of your hands and push away. After each push, rotate the dough 90°. Repeat this process in a rhythmic, rocking motion for 5 minutes, sprinkling only enough flour on your kneading surface to prevent sticking. Let the dough rest while you scrape out and grease the mixing bowl. Knead the dough again for 2 to 3 minutes.
Let It Rise: Return the dough to the bowl and turn it over once to grease the top. Cover with a damp towel and keep warm until the dough doubles in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours. (I let mine rise 1 1/2 hours)
|Once risen, it’ll look like this|
Shape it: Punch down the dough with your fist and briefly knead out any air bubbles. Cut the dough in half and shape into two Italian or French-style loaves (or make into round loaves). Place the loaves on a cookie sheet generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Let the loaves rest for 5 minutes.
Bake it: Lightly slash the tops of the loaves 3 or more times diagonally and brush them with cold water. Place on rack in a cold oven with a roasting pan full of boiling water on the oven bottom. Bake at 400°F for 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and sounds hollow to the touch.
For a lighter, crustier bread, let your shaped loaves rise for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven and roasting pan with water to 500°F for 15 minutes. Brush the loaves with cold water, place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 400°F and bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool and devour! (This is my preferred baking method).
For a heartier, more nutritious bread, substitute 2 cups of Whole Wheat Flour for 2 cups of All-Purpose Flour.