This bread is an easy to make hearth bread with a hard crust and soft inside. It does take some time to make, but not a lot of effort. Because of the time it takes to make, the bread has a slight sour flavor, similar to a mild sour dough. It is wonderful with jam/jelly or with soup. It is also great on it's own.
Note: The photos in this instructable show the use of a mixer;however, I have made this bread for years by hand.
Step 1: Igredients
5 cups of flour (unbleached all purpose works well)
2 cups of warm water (100-110 degrees F)
2 teaspoons yeast (instant or dry)
2 teaspoons salt
Step 2: Make a Starter
In a mixing bowl, mix 1 cup warm water, 1 teaspoon yeast and 2 cups of flour. If you are using dry yeast, let the yeast bloom (soak) in the water for a few minutes before adding the flour. Cover the mixture, and let in sit overnight. (For a stronger sour dough-like flavor, let the starter sit for a couple of days).
Note: I have found that covering the starter with a cling wrap and then a tea towel helps keep the starter from drying out. You will have to scrape a little of the starter off of the wrap, but it makes further mixing easier.
Step 3: Mixing and Kneading
Now knead the dough. If using a mixer, follow the machine's instructions for kneading. 2-5 minutes should do the job (I like going 4 to 5 minutes). If kneading by hand, knead the dough for 5-10 minutes.
Step 4: The First Rising
Note: The dough will rise best if the room temperature is over 70 F.
Step 5: Rolling on (and Waiting Again)
Now, beat down the dough, and knead it once again (with a mixer, knead of a minute or so. By hand, knead for a couple of minutes). Shape and roll the dough into a ball. For a thicker, harder crust, roll the ball in flour (My wife prefers the bread with a thinner crust).
Cover the ball with a tea towel, and let rise for 45 minutes. (I preheat the oven to 400 F after 30 minutes).
Step 6: Baking
Now place the bread into an oven preheated to 400F, and bake for 30-35 minutes.
Remove the bread from the oven, wrap it up in a tea towel, and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
NOTE: I bake the bread on a pizza stone, but before we had one, we used a cookie sheet.
Step 7: Variations
2 or 3 tablespoons of fresh rosemary (chopped) makes a nice addition.
Brush the bread with an egg wash before baking for a shiny, deep brown crust. For the egg wash, beat together 1 egg and 2 tablespoons of water.
Lastly, have fun with the size and shape of the loaf. Long french bread like loaves work well. Also, the dough can be divided into 2-4 balls and used as bread bowls for soup. Note: You will need to adjust the bake time.