I love to cook, but bread is not my thing. I am often unhappy with the results and aggravated about the amount of time I spent making something that I don't want to eat. I have tried a few recipes--one that even guaranteed me bread-making rock-star status, which sounded awesome, and did not deliver. It even had a photo tutorial and was a time consuming flop for me. I was not impressed and would have rather have spent my time sewing. However, I have now found a Charlie-proof recipe that actually is amazing in how easy, fast (for bread) and tasty it is!
It has a hard outer crust, like a good crusty French bread and is kind of chewy like Sourdough. So, if you like those sorts of bread (like me), you will love it. It makes wonderful Cuban Sandwiches, bread bowls, toastini, croutons & rolls!
I used a Kitchen Aid mixer, but you can do it by hand.
5-6 c. of Bread or All Purpose Flour (divided) --you can substitute in 2 c. Whole Wheat Flour, as well.
2 T. Dry Instant Yeast (approx 2 packages)
1 T. Salt
2 T. Sugar
2 c. Hot Water (120-130 degrees)
DO NOT PRE-HEAT YOUR OVEN. You will need 1 baking sheet, large cookie sheet, or metal pizza pan and a large tray to hold water underneath it. You can spray the sheet or line it in parchment paper.
1. Place 4c. flour, yeast, salt, & sugar in you mixing bowl and blend. Pour in the hot water. Mix for 3 minutes with your dough hook or 100 long strokes by hand.
2. If you are using a mixer, work in the remaining flour 1/2c. at a time until the dough is no longer sticky and is one big ball. Continue kneading with the dough hook for 8 minutes.
If you are doing it by hand, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and work in the flour as you knead. Keep a layer of flour between the dough and work surface. Knead for approx. 8-9 minutes.
3. Place it back in the mixing bowl and cover it with a towel or plastic wrap, place in a warm place to rise (80-100 degrees) for 15 minutes. I sit mine on a heating pad on in a tray of hot water.
4. Punch it down and cut it in half. You can shape the loaves in round rolls or rounded rectangles. It is pretty versatile. I have even made it into 8 round rolls. Cut x's in the round rolls and slashes on the rectangles.
5. Place it on your baking sheet and in an unheated oven on the middle rack with a tray of hot water on the rack below. Close the oven and turn it on 400 degrees. If you have made it into 2 loaves/rolls it will take approx. 50 minutes to cook. Less time for smaller loaves/rolls. It will turn a rich golden brown color and sound a little hollow when you knock it. Eat with soup or as sandwich bread it while it's fresh for 1-2 days and then tun it into toastini or croutons. Enjoy!
**This recipe is adapted from Benard Clayton's, "New Complete Book of Breads." If you love bread making you should check it out. His Banana Bread is pretty amazing too!