Okay, before I post this recipe I want to be very clear about something. This is my fail safe bread dough recipe, evolved several years ago at a restaurant where I needed to bake bread every day. I can make this bread in my sleep and fashion it into almost every flavor under the sun with a tweak here or a twist there. This does not mean it will be a fail safe recipe for anyone else although your probability for success is very high. Over the years I have learned that recipes are very personal things and never seem to work the same way for any two people. But I have had some requests for this recipe from people who have enjoyed it in our dining room and elsewhere, so here it is with the technique slightly modified for the home cook:
6.5 cups AP or Bread Flour (you can substitute 3.25 cups of flour for any grain or meal of your choice
1.5 teaspoons instant yeast or 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar (white, brown, honey, maple)
1 tablespoon salt
2.5 cups water, milk, tea, etc.
Extra virgin olive oil, corn oil or clarified butter to grease the bowl where your bread will rise
Combine the dry ingredients. Add the liquid and mix to form a soft, slightly tacky dough. If you are using a mixer it will (mostly) clean the sides of the bowl. Start with a paddle and switch to a dough hook when it comes together. You can rest the dough covered for 15 minutes before kneading to improve water absorption or you can go right into it. Depending on the day I do what is convenient, which I probably shouldn't admit but it's true. Both versions are good. Knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes using a mixer on medium speed or 10-15 minutes by hand. When it is done it will look cohesive and silky. If you use a mixer, give it a few turns by hand before putting it into an oiled bowl. Roll the dough around in the greased bowl to coat it and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. It will take up to 2 hours for the first rising on the kitchen counter depending upon the temperature of your kitchen. I usually knock it down once more and let it rise again before shaping it into loaves. The second rise will be much quicker than the first one, taking approximately half the amount of time. If you are busy and can't get to the dough, just keep knocking it down. This will actually improve the finished product as long as it never over proofs (deflates on it's own accord). Shape your loaves onto a sheet tray lined with parchment. I usually get two long loaves or about 12-14 dinner rolls out of one batch. Spray them with water and cover them with plastic wrap. The water will create a moist environment and keep the wrap from sticking to the dough. Set aside to proof one last time. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. When the dough has risen and looks puffy and marshmallow like, spray it thoroughly with water and put it into the hot oven. Bake for 7 minutes. Rotate the bread 180 degrees and lower the temperature to 400 degrees and bake for another 7-10 minutes or so, less for rolls. Once the bread has reached the desired golden to foxy brown color of you choice, take it out of the oven and let it cool. Place it on rack if you prefer a crisper crust.
If you are planning ahead, you can cut the yeast in half and let it rise in the fridge overnight. Pull it out a few hours before you're going to bake it off. Knock it down and let it come back to room temperature before shaping it for baking. It will rise a second time as it comes to room temperature. Proceed as above.
Any leftover rice or cooked grains can be added to the dry ingredients before mixing the dough. They will provide flavor and moisture to the finished product. A raw chopped onion mellows beautifully in the finished loaf. Chunks of cured meats, cheeses, olives or herbs can be added when forming the loaves. Just flatten out the dough into long rectangles. Sprinkle your chunks onto the middle three quarters of the dough leaving a space at the top and bottom. Roll up the dough, lengthwise and make sure the seam is on the bottom of your sheet tray. Let proof and continue as above. Use your imagination here because it is a very forgiving dough and will accept most additions with grace. Please feel free to email us with questions, problems and success stories. We'll try to help out however we can.