Homemade Crusty Bread
Lately, I’ve found myself wanting to try my hand at some of the forgotten homemade staples of decades past. Not to replace anything store bought (who has time for that—not me!), but rather as a treat, or a fun cooking project.
Like cheeses. And pastas. And bread.
Truth be told, I had a bread maker a few years ago. I LOVED that bread maker. I made loaf after loaf of Italian bread, hearty molasses bread, and other gluten-filled treasures. My sister and I would bake whole loaves, simply to have fresh-out-of-the-oven, warm bread with salted butter to gorge on during a movie marathon night.
Sadly, it bit the dust about three years ago and I never fixed or replaced it.
The bread maker was excellent for making low maintenance loaves of bread. It could even be set to prep dough for things like French baguettes, which has an oblong shape that doesn’t fit the confines of a loaf pan.
I love baguettes and Italian breads that are long and lean, rather than loaf-like. So, given the fact that my bread maker is no more, I thought I’d try my hand at making crusty bread from scratch—with my own two hands.
I wanted a recipe that didn’t need a day to prepare, or even hours. A recipe that if, on a whim, I needed a warm loaf of bread for dinner, and I only had about an hour’s notice, I could make it.
Here. It. Is. Mmmm…crusty bread.
- 5-1/2 cups bread flour
- 2 cups warm water (about 140°F)
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (one packet)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus a little extra for the rise)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- Dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water – around 100°F, and then let it proof (sit) for about 10 minutes.
- Add the salt, oil and 3 cups of flour and then mix it for 2 minutes with a dough hook in a KitchenAid (or similar) mixer.
- Add the 2 remaining cups of flour, and continue mixing for about 30 seconds – the dough will be very stiff. Dump it out onto a floured counter.
- Knead the dough for 10 minutes, adding a little flour as you go if the dough gets too sticky.
- Round the dough off into a large ball, coat it in olive oil, and then set it to rise, covered in a large bowl, somewhere warm and undrafty (I use my oven – turned off, but with the light on).
- Once it’s doubled in size (about 15-30 minutes), punch the dough down and split it into 2 halves. Roll and press each half into a rectangle shape and then roll them lengthwise to make 2 baguettes.
- Place each baguette on a cornmeal coated baking sheet, and let them rise again in a warm, undrafty place for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F and place a metal pan with about 1″ of water on the bottom of the oven. The steam from the hot water will help to make a crustier exterior on your bread.
- Use a very sharp knife to make 3 diagonal slits on top of each loaf, and then bake them for 30 minutes in the top 1/3 of your oven. You’ll want to check the loaves around 20 minutes to make sure the upper loaf isn’t browning too quickly – if it is, just switch the racks.