I have been trying to bake recently. I have tried to make the same type of bread three times to no avail. My mom gave me a recipe that seems like it should be pretty basic but apparently not for me. Good, old Dixon, my frequent cooking partner even gave me a baking stone as a gift in a moment of sympathy (I believe he even made some comment about getting a certain amount of pleasure regarding me having such botches in the kitchen). I then went to dinner at a friend's house where one of the guests brought a loaf of bread he had made. It was amazing and perfect - exactly what I had been hoping to achieve. This is the recipe.
Simple Crusty Bread
Adapted from ''Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day'' by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)
Time: About 45 minutes plus about 3 hours' resting and rising.
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.
4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.
Yield: 4 loaves.
Variation: If not using stone, stretch rounded dough into oval and place in a greased, nonstick loaf pan. Let rest 40 minutes if fresh, an extra hour if refrigerated. Heat oven to 450 degrees for 5 minutes. Place pan on middle rack.