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As the cold of winter sets in in the Pacific Northwest, us Washingtonians are hunkering down for the rain-filled season of gloom and grey. With the weather, comes my inevitable craving for good, old fashioned vittles. For our cozy crew, this means herb crusted pork roasts and mashed potatoes, Dutch ovens full of piping hot soup, mulled wine by the gallon, and one of my (new) favorites… warm, crusty, buttered bread.
Now, I have to come clean on this one… the majority of the cuisine that comes out of my kitchen has been perfected over the course of many moons, but this crusty little baby is the first loaf of bread that I have ever made… EVER. I used a recipe that I found in the depths of my grandmother’s kitchen. It was written on a napkin and was hidden deep inside a recipe box that has been in the “baking cupboard” for decades and let me tell you what… there’s a reason why it was in that box. Creating this little loaf of pillowey sunshine is nearly as easy as boiling water and the end result is delicious!
To start, gather up your ingredients grab your stand mixer and your dough hook, or a good ol’ fashioned bowl and spoon, and get ready for to partake in the easiest recipe you have ever made!
In your bowl, add three cups of regular All-Purpose flour (or APF as I like to call it), one teaspoon of salt, one half teaspoon of your active dry yeast and one and a half cups of warm water.
Now that you have all of your ingredients together, it’s time to get-a-mixin’!
If you’re using a stand-mixer, start her on low (this will keep the flour in the bowl and not all over your kitchen counters) and gradually increase the speed until all of the ingredients have come together in a nice pillowey ball and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Same goes for the old spoon and strength method. Once the ingredients are combined and the dough pulls away from the sides, you’re ready to go!
And here’s the hard part… the wait.
After your dough has come together, just leave it in your bowl, cover it with plastic and find a nice cozy spot for it to proof. The dough needs to rise for eight to twenty hours. This may seem like an obscene amount of time, (I was shooketh when I read those numbers) but I promise you, the wait is COMPLETELY worth it.
I decided to make my dough at around 11 PM and let that baby rise until I came home from work the following afternoon around 6PM… so it sat for just under 20 hours. I did make a few more loaves and proofed (the fancy term for letting your dough rise) them for different amounts of time within the criteria and they all turned out great!
Here’s what it looked like after proofing!
After my dough had proofed, I floured my countertops with a whole crap-ton of APF. (This dough is extremely sticky and the liberal flouring really helps with cleanup.) I used a sifter for even distribution, but regular old sprinkling works perfectly!
Once floured, I rolled and pulled and scraped my dough out of my mixing bowl and onto the floury countertop.
I de-ringed and dunked my hands in some flour and gave that baby a flip, tuck and roll.
You don’t want to overwork your dough so once it’s formed into a nice little button, give your hands a rinse and let that baby rise.
Thirty minutes is all it takes and while your dough is proofing again, you can start to prep your oven.
Crank it up to 450 degrees and get your Dutch oven (D.O), lid and all, in there to get nice and toasty while the oven preheats. If you don’t have a D.O., you can use any baking dish as long as it has high sides and a lid, but the cast iron really helps create that beautiful crust on the bottom of the loaf.
After the thirty minutes has elapsed and your oven and D.O. baking dish are both nice and hot, carefully slice an “X” into the top of your pillowey ball of dough and transfer it into the D.O. dish.
Pop that lid back on and get in the oven. Set your timer for 30 minutes and start to plan all of the delicious things you are going to do with your loaf once it’s done!
After thirty minutes has elapsed, remove the lid and admire your almost-finished product.
It was at this point in the breading process that I had to freak out a little… I couldn’t believe that I created something that looked so pretty and that smelled so good! (Seriously, your house is going to smell like a bakery)
After having a quick peek at your loaf, toss that lid into the sink (remember, it’s HOT!) and get that bread back into the oven. Your loaf needs another ten to fifteen minutes uncovered to brown that crust up and you’re in the home stretch!
It is now time to remove your D.O. from the oven and transfer your gorgeous loaf of bread onto a wire rack to cool.
You are going to be tempted to immediately slice and devour the fruits of your patience but the bread slices MUCH easier after it has had the chance to cool for a few minutes.
This loaf sat on the counter for about half an hour before I grabbed the serrated knife and got to slicing.
Mr. Pizza Arm approves!
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