Simple, beginner recipe for moist, chewy bread with the perfect crust!
1tbspdry active yeast
Mixing and First Proof
Mix the yeast, water and honey in a small bowl or jug. The water should be cooler than what you would run for a bath, but warm to the touch. Let sit for 5 minutes, if your yeast is still active, foam and some bubbles will appear on the top of the water. If nothing happens, your yeast is likely out of date or has been open for too long and your bread may not rise as well.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Create a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture.
Use your hands or a rubber spatula to mix the dough thoroughly. Mix it for a good 2-3 minutes to ensure there are no pockets of flour. The dough should be shaggy and wet, but not runny. Add more water if it is still floury, or a sprinkle more flour if it is wet.
Cover with a tea towel and proof somewhere warm for 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size and seems inflated. I recommend only proofing out on the side if it is summer and your house is warm, if not, place it in your laundry room, airing cupboard or use the oven proofing method (my favourite). Place in the cold oven and place a bowl of boiling water next to it or beneath it. Shut the door and do not open it until the 2 hours are up.
Uncover the dough and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Lightly flour your hands and perform 8 "stretch and folds". Simply scoop up one side of the dough, stretch it up slightly and fold it over towards the other side like a calzone. Repeat 7 times, rotating round the dough.
Recover with the tea towel and proof for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size again. If putting it back in the oven, replenish the boiling water.
Remove from the oven and preheat to 220c/430f. Place your dutch oven/casserole pot in the oven with the lid on. Let it preheat for 45 minutes-1 hour.
Meanwhile, lightly flour your work surface. If you have a round banneton/proofing basket, lightly dust the banneton or the liner with flour. If not, wipe 1 tbsp olive oil around a large mixing bowl and lightly dust with flour.
Use the rubber spatula to scrape your dough out carefully on to your work surface. Dust the top of the dough with flour.
To shape your bread, use your hands to scoop round and under the dough in a scooping/bowl motion. Do this several times around the edge of your dough. This creates surface tension on top of the bread for that lovely crust!
Once your dough is a tight, formed ball, scoop it up and carefully drop it in to your banneton or bowl.
Cover and let sit while your dutch oven finishes preheating.
Once the preheating time is up, use oven gloves to remove your dutch oven from the oven and place it down on the side. CAUTION: it will be VERY hot so place it on a trivet or heat safe surface and watch your hands!
Remove the lid (again, be careful!) and gently pick up your dough and plop it down in the dutch oven. Score the top of your dough in whatever pattern you prefer - a simple cross is the standard. Replace the lid and put in the oven.
Bake for 40 minutes (30 if you are doing a half size loaf), then remove the lid and bake uncovered for another 10-15 until golden.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes before picking up and letting it rest for another 30 on a chopping board. Although you are going to want to slice in to it immediately, don't! The texture finishes up in the resting period.
Store the bread wrapped in a tea towel, paper bag or in a bread bag. Anything breathable to keep that lovely crust! Slices of bread freeze perfectly and can be toasted from frozen.