First things first: I am not a baker. I don’t even eat bread all that often. So, why did I write a recipe for bread?
I have always liked the idea of making my own bread when I get the occasional baking itch. But, bread is hard to perfect. A real baker could talk to you about humidity, and elevation, and feeding sourdough starters like they were a beloved family pet. It always felt beyond me, like serious bakers are actually magicians trying to make it sound like baking bread is doable for us non-magic folk when really, it’s not.
On the flip side there are plenty of ‘super easy!’ bread recipes out there. They often have more ingredients than I want and turn out more like cake than bread. Not bad, but not what I want.
I want bread. Flour, salt, yeast, water. That is it. And easy. Do not forget the ‘easy’. I want an easy rustic bread recipe.
How did I accomplish this feat? I started by reading a lot of bread recipes and omitting all the steps that made me think “there’s no way I’m doing that”, then added in an electric mixer. The mixer really changed the game. What often makes bread recipes challenging and time consuming is the kneading process. It can be ten minutes of kneading at a time. Forget that. No way am I standing there kneading for ten minutes when I have a baby fussing at my feet, the next meal to prepare, dishes to clean, toys to pick up, and, oh yeah, my actual job to get back to. I cherish every free minute I have and it’s not going to be spent kneading dough. It’s just not.
In steps my hero: The electric mixer (this is the one I use). Set a timer, turn it on, and walk away. The time is cut in half, and I can take a few minutes to finish another task. Or sit. Sitting is a nice treat.
Another thing that the electric mixer fixes: knowing if the dough is wet or dry enough. A real bread-pro can tell by the feel of the dough if it is the right consistency. While I, the not-bread-pro do not know how to tell how ‘tacky’ or ‘sticky’ or ‘smooth’ is the right amount.
This recipe aims to take out the guesswork and be pretty forgiving in either direction. What you are looking for is that while the mixer is running, the dough sticks to the bottom of the bowl but not the sides. If the dough forms a ball on the hook and clears the bottom, it is too dry. If it sticks to the bowl around the sides, it is too wet. I shoot for the ‘stuck spot’ to be roughly the size of my fist, but if it is a bit bigger or smaller, I don’t sweat it.
The result is delicious, rustic bread that is perfect for serving with soups and stews, butter and honey, or just eating plain! Of course, it is the perfect companion for our herb compound butter!
Hand-Drawn Printable RecipePrint
Rustic round loaf bread that is easy enough for beginner bakers.
6 cups flour
2 tsp active yeast
1 tbs salt
2 3/4 cups water
drizzle of oil
Combine all dry ingredients in your mixer and with the paddle blade, turn it on the lowest setting to get things mixing. Add the water until everything is combined.
Let sit for 20-40 minutes. This allows the flour to fully absorb the water and lets the yeast start to wake up.
With the dough hook knead the dough in the mixer for 5 minutes. The dough should stick only to the bottom of the bowl but clear the sides. If it is too wet and sticking to the sides, add a sprinkle of flour. If it is too dry and clearing the bottom, add a splash of water, about a tablespoon at a time.
Coat the top layer of the dough with a small drizzle of oil. Just enough to prevent drying out. Let the dough sit for about an hour until it has doubled in size.
Knead the dough in the mixer for 2 more minutes. Lift the hook and drizzle a small amount of oil around the edges of the dough, lifting the sides until you can cleanly lift the dough out of the bowl.
On a floured surface, divide the dough into 4 pieces and thinly coat in flour. Form the pieces into round loaves by tucking the sides under making the top smooth. Place them on the cookie sheet that they will be baked on with a piece of parchment paper. They will expand as they rest and again in the oven so give them plenty of wiggle room. Set the loaves out to rise for one more hour.
While the loaves are rising preheat oven to 450 ° score the top of each loaf. Place a pie pan with water on the bottom rack, and the loaves above it. Bake for 20 minutes until the crust is a nice golden brown.
Take them out and let them cool. When you first take them out the inside has not finished baking yet. Letting it sit and cool allows the bread to finish on the inside and the crust soften up on the outside.