I love baking and I really love fresh bread. One of the reasons I really like this recipe is because you don't need to have a starter/poolish/or biga made ahead of time. Many bread recipes start with a water and flour mixture that is set aside for a day or so to add deeper flavor to the bread. This recipe already has a lot of flavor, though you should play with the amount of salt to match your preferences.
It's a great addition to any meal, paired with cheese, or just a little butter.
Step 1: BoM
This recipe makes 1 large loaf. You can easily double or triple to make more loaves.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1-2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water
1-1/2 teaspoons water
Step 2: Mix
Add all of the ingredients (except the last two, egg white and tsp of water) to your stand mixer and mix on low until all ingredients are well incorporated. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can do this by hand.
As I don't have a flour sifter, I like to measure my flour out on a scale to make sure I'm getting the right amount of flour and don't use too much. Too much flour can result in a denser bread with little to no air pockets.
Step 3: Knead
On a low setting, use the dough hook to knead the dough until the dough is smooth and pulling away from the sides. About 5-8 minutes. You'll know the dough has been kneaded enough when it is smooth, elastic and not sticky.
Step 4: First Rise
Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rise until doubled in bulk. Make sure to place the bowl in a warm area.
When the dough has doubled, remove the cover and gently deflate. A lot of directions will say to punch down the dough, releasing gases inside, but I find turning it out onto your surface is good enough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and let rest 10-15 minutes.
Step 5: Shape
Shape dough into a log. You can use warm water to help any seams you create to stick together better.
Place on baking sheet or in baguette pan. If using a cookie sheet you can add a thin layer of cornmeal for the log to rest on.
Take a very sharp knife (or kitchen scissors) and make several diagonal cuts across the top of the loaf, about 1/4" deep. Doing this before the second rise prevents the dough from falling in and becoming more dense.
Step 6: Second Rise
After the dough is shaped, cover and let rise until the size has doubled.
Preheat oven to 375. If you want a crispy crust, you can place a cast iron pan in the oven, beneath the rack you'll put the bread on.
Step 7: Bake
Mix egg white and water together and then brush over the top of the loaf.
Put the loaf into the oven and add cold water to the cast iron pan.
About 20 minutes in, you can add an extra egg wash layer to the bread and add more water to the cast iron pan. The steam created from the water hitting the pan will give you a crispy crust.
Bake an additional 15-20 minutes.
Step 8: Rest
When the bread is a nice golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 190-200, remove from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack.
Another way to test the bread for doneness is to remove it from the oven and tap the bottom. If the bread is done it will sound hollow, if it doesn't put it back in the oven for a few more minutes.