This crusty white bread is one of the easiest bread recipes I’ve come across. It makes two loaves, so you are welcome to share it with a friend (or not)! I turned one loaf into French toast.
How is everyone holding up with the social distancing? After 2-3 days, we were starting to get on each others’ nerves. Weekends have been hard since it’s typically when we spend the most time together as a family. With the isolation, we have been spending lots of quality time together.
One thing that is keeping me sane is baking. I recently became more interested in bread baking. Since I am no longer afraid of yeast, I can finally try some of those bread recipes that used to intimidate me.
To start off the week, I made a Chinese milk bread that was slightly sweet and became my daily breakfast. Next up was this crusty white bread. This particular recipe made two loaves. We enjoyed a few slices the first few days after it was baked. Then I turned the rest of the loaf into an incredible French toast for a weekend brunch. We still have one loaf remaining. It will likely become toast for breakfast or a quick afternoon snack.
I was tempted to gift the other loaf to a neighbor, but I was afraid that they would be scared that I didn’t wash my hands properly while preparing this (I did – probably washed my hands at least 20 times during the baking process). So we decided to keep the second loaf all to ourselves and munch on it for the rest of the week.
Crusty white bread
- 4 and ½ to 5 cups (542 to 600 grams) unbleached bread flour can substitute all-purpose if needed, but bread flour is strongly recommended
- 1 Tablespoons (11 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 and ¼ teaspoons instant yeast do not use active dry yeast
- 2 and ½ teaspoons salt do not use kosher
- 1 and ⅔ cups (379 grams) warm water about 90°F-110°F
- cornmeal for coating the pan
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment or in a large bowl if mixing by hand, mix together all of the ingredients on medium low speed except for the corn meal (we'll use this ingredient later). If mixing by hand, do this first part with a wooden spoon until the dough becomes shaggy.
- Continue to knead the dough at medium speed for about 7 minutes. The dough will be smooth and elastic. If you are mixing by hand, you may need to add more flour as you knead. Place the dough on a lightly dusted surface and press down with the heel of your hand. Bring the farthest edge towards you as you fold it in half. Then press down with your heel and press away from you. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat. Continue repeating for another 6 minutes or so.
- Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. Cover and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 1-2 hours.
- Punch the dough down and divide it into half. Pat one half of the dough into a rough oval. Fold it in thirds like a letter, seam side up. Then flatten it a bit and roll it up into a log as best you can. Pinch the seams and then flip the dough over so the smooth side is facing up. Repeat with the other half of dough.
- Sprinkle some corn meal onto a large baking sheet. Place the two loaves, seam side down, onto the sheet. Cover and allow to rise again and double, another 45 minutes to an hour.
- Preheat your oven to 450°F.
- Get a cast iron or stainless steel frying pan and place it in the bottom rack of your oven. Boil 1 cup of water on the stove or in the microwave. Pour it into the frying pan VERY CAREFULLY (be careful not to burn yourself!).
- Dust the tops of the loaves of bread with a thin coat of flour. Make 3 diagonal slices on the top of each loaf to allow steam to escape. Place the bread into the middle rack of your preheated oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes. The loaves should sound hollow if you pat the bottom of it, and a thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 190°F.
- Turn the oven off but crack the door open a little bit. Allow the bread to rest in the oven for an additional 5 minutes. Then remove the pan from the oven to cool completely. Do not cut into the bread until it has cooled down.