This simple bread recipe comes from the book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois. The book is a great guide to fitting homemade bread into busy lives.
(these quantities can be cut in half for a half batch)
3 cups lukewarm water
1 ½ tablespoons regular yeast
1 to 1 ½ tablespoons coarse salt (the recipe calls for 1 ½ but I have cut it back
6 ½ cups whole white or white flour (one cup can be whole wheat or multigrain)
• Warm the water slightly (to a little warmer than body temperature). Add the yeast and salt to the water. Give it a stir and add the flour, mixing until it is completely incorporated. You’ll end up with a wet, shaggy dough.
• Scrape it into a plastic, food grade container with a lid and let it sit on the counter for a couple of hours. By this time it’s ready to use but the dough will be easier to work with once it has been refrigerated for a while.
• You can either bake the bread on a pizza stone (recommended for best results) or on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
• Sprinkle an un-sided cookie sheet with cornmeal (so it will slide easily onto the pizza stone).
• To make your bread, sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour, and pull up and cut off a grapefruit-sized clump of dough. Shape it into to a ball by gently stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. (You can add a little more flour as needed during this, so the dough doesn’t stick to your hands). It should take less than a minute to shape.
• Set the ball on the cornmeal-covered cookie sheet and let it sit for 40 minutes (You can cover it at this point, but it isn’t necessary).
• Twenty minutes before baking preheat the oven to 450 with the pizza stone placed on the middle rack.
• When you’re ready to bake the dough, dust the top lightly with flour and slash it with a serrated knife (only a surface cut).
• Slide the dough onto the pizza stone (if using) or place the cookie sheet in the oven. On a lower rack place a baking pan filled with a cup of hot water. (This creates steam that helps a nice crust form).
• Bake for 30 minutes and cool on a rack.