I am at peace with the fact that I am a gastronomically confused person. Yesterday, my lunch consisted of Cinnamon Toast Crunch followed by a garden tomato and fresh mozzarella plate. Strangely, they both sounded incredible to me. Fresh bread also sounded good, but I was all out. That reminded me that I have yet to share my newly dubbed “sugar coated cereal and fancy pants caprese salad for lunch” bread recipe. It has the look that would stand up next to an Italian salad, but with the work of pouring a bowl of cereal.
To make the dough, you only have to measure and mix 4 ingredients. The only difference between making this bread and eating a bowl of cereal is the time. Unlike Cinnamon Toast Crunch (which is best consumed as fast as you can to stay ahead of the sugar floating off into the milk), the dough needs to proof for at least 12 hours. When it’s done (or when you remember about it again), you shape and let it rest some more. It’s still the friendliest bread recipe out there though because it sidesteps a lot of common dough-making failures. You can’t kill the yeast because you use cold water. You can’t knead it too little or too much because you don’t knead it in the first place. You can’t even mess it up if you forget about it for a few days (guilty).
Because this bread is so easy to make, I mixed it up last night to complete my delicious lunch for today, which included leftover vegetable risotto and a pile of chocolate chips.
Basic White Dough
Note: I didn’t mention that this dough is actually the most versatile thing ever. The recipe for an artisan loaf only uses about one third of the dough, so you can stick it in the fridge for up to a week and use it whenever you need bread products. Craving pizza? This dough is the perfect pizza dough. Pitas or naan? Shape the dough into whatever shape you want and bake it on a baking stone. The only thing this bread can’t be is a wheat loaf, for obvious reasons. But wait! Sub in 2 cups of wheat flour into the dough and it CAN.
6 cups all-purpose white flour
1 ½ tbsp salt
1 tbsp yeast
3-4 cups cold water
In a large bowl with a lid, mix together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the water, starting with 3 cups, and mix with a spoon. Add more water until all the flour is incorporated, and the dough mixes easily. Cover the container and let it rest at room temperature overnight. The next morning, put it in the refrigerator and use over the next week.
1 large chunk basic white dough, about a third of the batch
An hour before you want to bake the bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with ¼ cup of flour. Cut off a good sized chunk (at least a third of the dough), and place on a floured workspace. The dough at this point should be really sticky and hard to work with. Sprinkle more flour over the dough and start to shape it: fold the dough from outside into the middle, turning the whole thing a quarter turn with each fold so you end up with a domed shaped loaf. Or, as I often do, just plunk the whole chunk of dough on a floured surface and walk away. Let it rest on a floured surface until ready to use.
While the dough is resting, place a lidded Dutch oven or lidded casserole dish in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. After the oven and the pot are preheated, slide the dough into the pot and cover with the lid. Bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove the lid and continue baking for another 15 minutes.
When done, place on a wire cooling rack and, for best texture, wait until it’s cool to slice.