easiest bread of your life

I have a huge weakness for carbs. Specifically bread ... and not of the whole wheat variety.

Whole wheat can take a hike and never come back ... just kidding. Kind of.

I've attempted to make bread a few times before, some that I've documented on the blog... some pre-blog. It feels like bread is super tricky to make. Every time I attempted fresh bread, I end up saying one or more of the following:
"I wish it tasted more ..."
"I feel like it needs some..."
"It wasn't that challenging, but I'm got tired of ..."

This bread was quite literally the opposite of all those statements. It had the most perfect amount of air pockets - which I prefer to call butter craters. It also had just the right amount of flavor. I raved about this bread so much that people started to ask me what type of bread it was ... and I could only say "bread". Not helpful right?

I'd describe it as the texture of a sourdough but without that biting tart sourdough taste. A bit like a white bread in taste. Kind of perfect right?

Answer = yes.

What wasn't perfect? Well, I covered myself in flour making this bread. Flour everywhere. I had read as  part of the recipe that the dough tended to be very sticky. Well to combat sticky .... just add flour right? Yeah, that worked but it resulted in my kitchen being saturated in white dust. Baby Sister even got in on the fun as you can see here:
In addition to being delicious, I've neglected to mention that this bread is nearly labor free. No kneading. All you have to do is mix the dough once and essentially be patient for 18 hours during the first rise. Then flop it around a little bit. Be patient for two more hours. Then cook. Then cut. Then slather in butter and honey ..... and then crack some dental bonding and go to the dentist. Or, that dentist part can be just me.

I actually made this bread for the first time last weekend .... and again this weekend. As I was lying in bed last night, I was doing some casual recipe browsing and stumbled upon a few gems that absolutely called for this bread. Despite the fact that it was 10:45 at night (don't judge my social life), I hopped right out of bed and whipped this dough baby right up... and was back in bed within ten minutes. Yep, it's that easy.

So this is how you make this amazing bread.

(Step 1) In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. The recipe says to let it rest between 12 -18 hours. Obviously the longer the better.... and ideally you want the room temperature to be about 70 degrees.

This is what my dough looked like before the rise. I was not convinced at this point I had done anything correct.

(Step 2) Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

I let mine rise for 22 hours .... and this is what it looked like. Hi little bubbles. I'm coming for you with some flour.

(Step 3) Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. Ideally, place the "seam" of the dough on the bottom. Cover or wrap loosely with another cotton towel and let rise for 2 hours. Theoretically, the dough wil rise double in size and that's how you'll know it's ready. I'm not sure mine ever got to "double".

Here is my dough baby all tucked in for its two hour nap. Also, how pretty is that flower arrangement? I made it. Floral class has been paying off my friends.
Also a note on the flour here. Be generous. The first time I made this I was very generous and it made the process easier. Less dough sticking to the towel. The second time, I got cocky and used less flour. As a result, the dough didn't get as big (apparently sticky dough loves flour) and it stuck to the towel more.

(Step 4) At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450°F. Get a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic). When dough is ready, slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is fine. If you want, gently shake the pan to even out the dough a bit. Cover with lid or tin foil and bake (20 minutes for foil, 30 for a lid), then remove lid and bake another 15 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Given the complete and vast variety of pans and lid combos, the timing will vary depending on what you do. So keep that in mind. But essentially, split the time and you'll be fine. Famous last words probably... but it's bread not something that will kill anyone.

This is what I look like when I'm trying to decide how to get the dough baby into my casserole dish. Confused. Perplexed. And excited.

Shopping List
3 cups of bread flour, plus probably a cup more for the rest of the process
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 5/8 cups of water

Bonus picture? Baby sister getting caught nomming on the dough pre-oven. Admittedly ... it was delicious and should have been sampled.

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