I had a very lofty goal of working my way through The Bread Bible, one recipe at a time, but I think I’m stuck. For my very first attempt, I made the basic hearth bread, and I’m just not motivated to move on and make any others.
The basic hearth bread is so good, I want to make a fresh loaf every week. I don’t want to try other recipes, because I’ve discovered the perfect bread recipe. Perfect. I said it.
I’m sure the book is full of delicious recipes, but all I can think about is baking another fresh loaf of the basic hearth bread again next week. It’s an incredibly simple recipe – a chewy, crusty, white sandwich bread, with a tiny bit of honey and just 1/4 cup of wheat flour to warm up the flavor.
Toast a slice and slather with jam for the world’s best breakfast, or carve a coupla thin slices for the perfect turkey sammich.
The book is on loan from my friend Jenny, who dresses better than anyone I know in real life. I’m hoping she doesn’t need it back anytime soon.
Continue reading for the Basic Hearth Bread recipe
- 1 cup bread flour
- ¼ cup whole wheat flour
- ⅜ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1¼ teaspoons honey
- 1⅓ liquid cups water, at room temperature (70° to 90° F)
- 1¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons bread flour
- ½ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- In a mixer bowl or other large bowl, place the bread flour, whole wheat flour, yeast, honey, and water. Whisk until very smooth, to incorporate air, about 2 minutes.The sponge should be the consistency of a thick batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Set aside, covered with plastic wrap, while you the flour mixture.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the bread flour (reserve 2 tablespoons if mixing by hand) and the instant yeast.
- Gently scoop it onto the sponge to cover it completely, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and allow to ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature. (During this time, the sponge will bubble through the flour mixture in places; this fine.)
- Add the salt and, with a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until the flour is moistened.
- Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, then scrape it out onto a lightly floured counter. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, enough to develop the gluten structure a little, adding as little of the reserved 2 tablespoons of flour as possible to keep it from sticking. Use a bench scraper to scrape the dough and gather it together as you knead it.
- At this point, it will be very sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. (This resting time will make the dough less sticky and easier to work with.)
- Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes, until it is very smooth and elastic. It should be barely tacky to the touch. If the dough is still very sticky, add some of the remaining reserved flour.
- Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough into a 2-quart dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Push down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top.
- Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side at where double the height of the dough would be. Allow the dough to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough onto a floured counter and press down on it gently to form a rectangle.
- Give it 1 business letter turn, round the edges, and return it to the container.
- Oil the surface again, cover, and mark where double the height of the dough would now be. It will fill the container fuller than before because it is puffier with air.
- Allow to rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press it down to flatten it slightly. It will still be sticky, but use only as much flour during shaping as absolutely necessary.
- Shape the dough into a rectangular loaf and place it in a lightly greased 10-by-5-inch loaf pan (it will come to about ½ inch from the top of the pan).
- Cover the shaped dough with a large container or oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise until almost doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. In the loaf plan, the center should be 1 inch higher than the sides of the pan. When the dough is pressed gently with a fingertip, the depression will very slowly fill in.
- Preheat the oven to 475° F 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking sheet on it.
- Make one long slash down the middle of the loaf, or leave it unslashed. Mist the dough with water and quickly but gentle set the pan in the oven.
- Toss ½ cup of ice cubes into the hot baking sheet beneath and immediately shut the oven door. Bake for 10 minutes.
- Lower the temperature to 425° F and continue baking for 20 to 30 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 200° F). Halfway through baking, turn the pan around for even baking.
- Remove the bread from the oven and transfer it to a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.