Weekend dinners are a bit of a special affair in our home and until recently, it was not uncommon for “a loaf of good dinner bread” to make the weekly shopping list. A couple years ago, we thought it was high time to start baking our “weekend bread” at home. It was important the bread have excellent flavor, a crust with some crunch, and a chewy soft center. This wonderful homemade yeast bread recipe covers all those bases. Despite it’s simplicity, this loaf looks and tastes so good everyone will think you’re a bread pro.
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Rustic Bread Ingredients
WHAT YOU NEED:
If you’re just getting started, here are some helpful bread baking tools.
Mixing the Dough
Mix your dry ingredients together. I toss them all in a bowl then give it a couple shakes, it doesn’t need a ton of agitating.
Add the water. You want your water to be warm, not hot. I never really take the temperature for this one, but I’d say you are looking for the 90 degree range. You’re aiming for water that’s warm enough to wake up the yeast but not hot enough to kill it.
Mix by hand until everything is incorporated. Then cover and let sit 8-24 hours in a warm spot.
NOTE: I mix and rest the dough in a bowl with a lid like these from Pyrex. It keep your dough from getting dry and it will keep some gas in the bowl which makes more bubbles in the bread, leading to a lighter texture
After the 8-24 hours, it’s time to bake.
Baking Your Bread
You can bake the bread in a cast iron Dutch Oven or a loaf pan, instructions for both are below.
I prefer to bake this bread in a cast iron dutch oven as it heats the loaf evenly and leads to an incredible texture. If you don’t have one, I highly suggest getting one. Not only does it help you bake amazing bread, you can also cook tons of other dishes in it, including Roast Chicken. This Dutch Oven is top notch, if you’re looking for a recommendation Cast Iron Dutch Oven.
To Bake Your Bread in a Dutch Oven (Round Loaf):
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Put the dutch oven inside and let it heat for at least 30 mins. The pan needs to be hot before the dough goes in.
Meanwhile, remove the dough from the bowl onto a floured work surface. Form the dough into a ball while gently stretching the top. This step is important to get the beautiful final shape and it improves crust texture thanks to gluten development. Let your dough rest while the oven and Dutch oven preheat.
Once everything is up to temperature, add a little lubrication to the baking vessel. Granted, if the cast iron is seasoned you CAN skip this step but… this is a great time to get the trusty jar of bacon fat out of the fridge (you’ve got one, right?). I scoop up just a little with a paper towel then give the hot cast iron a good wipe down. It’s good for the dutch oven and makes triple sure the bread won’t stick.
Add your dough to the Dutch oven seam side up (what was sitting on your work surface), put the lid on and then put it into the hot oven.
Baking time can vary between 30-40 mins depending on your oven and how dark brown you want the crust. Start checking after 30 mins and go from there. After you’ve made this recipe a few times, you’ll know what time works best for you and your oven. I prefer a dark golden brown with some dark brown bits, which I think adds a larger range of flavor.
To Bake Your Bread In a Loaf Pan
Let the oven preheat for 30 minutes. Do not preheat the loaf pan but do grease lightly.
Turn dough into loaf pan, cover with foil, bake for 30 minutes.
Remove foil after 30 minutes, then bake for 20 more minutes.
Once baking is finished, let your bread rest, uncovered, on a cooling rack for 5 mins or so. We often end up skipping this stage because the bread smells so good and it tastes absolutely divine fresh out of the oven.
Spread on your favorite butter (we love Kerrygold) and enjoy! Repeat as needed. Need bread asap? Check out my Basic Beer Bread recipe, it’s ready to eat in less than an hour!
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