There is an undeniable mystique around bread baking. So many unfamiliar terms, so many techniques, starters, proportions, secrets that have been passed down through generations. It's intimidating, to say the least, and it kept me from baking bread until about a year ago.
Thankfully, there are lots of places to start for a yeast noob like me. Kind of like this bread, which is pretty much full proof (or fool proof). My friend Gabe, who is Italian, brought this over to a BBQ recently and we couldn't get enough, and when I got the recipe, I was floored by how easy it was to make. I couldn't help making one little change, though - I brushed the bread with a mix of olive oil, garlic and herbs, which gave it a crispy, garlicky crust that's impossible to resist. This is truly a bread you can make every day - and should make every day because it's dang good.
Gabe's Everyday Bread
400 g all purpose flour*** 1 tsp salt 240 g water at 115F 1 tsp active yeast 1 tablespoon honey
For topping: 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb mix
***Flour: using the right flour for bread-making really does matter. I know, because I started off using cheaper flour and when I switched to a better brand, I could really taste the difference. So, even though I generally avoid giving brand recommendations, I'm going to break my own rule here and tell you that for bread, I almost always use the King Arthur brand of flour.
Whisk flour and salt in a mixer bowl. Heat water to 115F and add yeast and honey.
Pour the water mixture into the flour and knead with the dough hook for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. It shouldn't be very sticky - if it is, knead in a bit more flour until the dough is still soft and only very slightly sticky.
Rub or spray a large bowl with olive oil and put the dough inside, turning it to coat with oil. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place until doubles in size (about an hour).
Preheat the oven to 450F.
Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and shape into a loaf (I made mine round).
Combine olive oil, crushed garlic and herbs, and brush the bread with about 3/4 of the mixture.
Place the loaf in a cast iron, a dutch oven or a baking sheet (I also put a layer of wax paper sprayed with olive oil under the bread) and bake for about 30 minutes. The crust should be a deep golden color and the bread should sound hollow when tapped from the side.
Immediately upon taking the bread out of the oven, brush again with the olive oil/garlic mixture and let cool to room temperature. Enjoy!