Country Style Crusty Loaf
This is a basic bread baked in loaves of any shape. The nice crust is the result of two factors: a hot and humid oven. The bread needs a hot, humid environment for the first few minutes, and then slightly lower temperature to finish the baking. To get the heat I bake the bread on pizza stones that I place in the oven and heat at least 30 minutes before the bread goes in. The pizza stone gets hot and the bread forms a nice crust thanks to the contact with the hot surface. To create the steam I place a cast iron skillet in the bottom of the oven as it heats. Just before the bread goes into the oven I drop a few ice cubes into the skillet and as they melt they generates significant amount of steam. Alternatively, spray the inside of the oven with water before placing the loaves in. I also like to sprinkle some flour on the bread before I place it in the oven, it gives it rustic look and adds an interesting flavour element. So fun.
2 cups water
1 package yeast (2.25 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
5-6 cups flour or as needed
2 teaspoons salt
Pour the water into the Bosch bread mixer (or another bread mixer). Sprinkle the yeast over the water and add the sugar. Turn the machine on and run it for a moment to blend ingredients. Now you can wait for the yeast to proof if required or continue with the recipe if the yeast does not require proofing.
Start adding the flour with the mixer running, adding the salt after you have added a cup of the flour. Continue kneading and adding flour until the flour gathers into a ball that clears the sides of the bowl. At this time stop adding flour and let the machine knead the dough for 6 minutes.
Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and continue to knead by hand a few minutes to bring the dough together. Sprinkle with flour as you knead but just add enough flour to form elastic dough, not more.
Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl large enough to hold 2.5 times the volume of the dough. Cover with plastic and a damp towel and allow to rest until doubles in size.
Turn dough over onto the counter and gently flatten with the palm of your hands (I am not a fan of punching it down). Cut the dough into two equal pieces and shape each piece onto an oval or round loaf. Either place the shaped dough into appropriate size bannetons (see image below) or leave to rise free standing.
When the bread has doubled in size dust it with flour first and then make a couple of cuts along the top with a sharp knife. Transfer to a preheated 450℉ oven, drop some ice into the roasting pan underneath or spray the oven walls with water. Let bake until ready, about 30-40 minutes. The bread is done when tapping on the bottom crust gives a hollow sound or internal temperature is just over 200℉.