And it is so simple, and fool-proof, I feel silly for wasting countless hours trying any other method/recipes. My sister, whom had never baked bread before today, used this recipe and it turned out perfect.
If you're a first time bread baker, or been doing it for years, please try this out. You'll think you're in Paris. The result is a chewy amazing crust and a melt-in-your-mouth crumb. And if you're like my husband and I, one loaf will last about 5 minutes.
Here's how to do it. (Edited to add: No kitchenaid? See the mixer-free version at the bottom.)
a stand mixer
4 cups bread flour
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
You'll need 4 cups bread flour. Reserve 1/4 c for countertop and kneading and dump the remaining 3 3/4 c into the stand mixer.
Put 2 teaspoons salt on one side of the bowl, and 2 teaspoons of yeast on the other side.
Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into the middle and mix on a slow speed with the paddle attachment until the dough just comes together.
When the dough forms a mass, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Dough should clear the sides but may stick to the bottom a bit.
If you feel like the dough is too sticky or too dry, feel free to add a touch more water or flour by the tablespoonful. (I haven't had to do this)
After 2 minutes, let the dough rest for five minutes.
After the five minute rest, mix the dough again for 3 minutes. Place the dough on the counter and, using the 1/4 cup of bread flour we reserved in the beginning, hand knead the dough. You may not need to incorporate the entire 1/4 cup. If the dough feels firm and solid enough, just knead for a few minutes and prepare it to rest. You should have a satiny, smooth compact ball.
After the second short rest, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into 2 pieces. Form each piece into a smooth, round ball, tucking any haggard edges on the underside of the dough. Leave to rest, covered with a damp cloth, on the lightly floured surface for 45 minutes to a hour.
Here’s some fun! Just after you put the bread in the oven, take 1/4 cup of water, open the oven door, quickly poor the water onto the hot oven floor and immediately close the oven door. We’re creating steam here people… it’s exciting. Wait 2 minutes and repeat the process.
Bake loaves for 20-25 minutes. They’ll be golden and gorgeous. Remove from the oven and insert a thermometer. The temperature should be between 190 to 210 degrees F.
Put your dry ingredients (minus yeast) in a bowl. Make a well in the center and pour your luke warm water into it. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and wait a minute or so. Then start to mix in the flour with the water until you get it together into a doughy gloop. Then knead the dough in the bowl until it gets the nice smooth consistency that you see in the pictures and it isn't sticking to the bowl – you may need to add a smidge of flour to get it to this consistency.. the whole process should take about 7 minutes or so..
then continue with the rising instructions as it says.
*I haven't tried this method out myself but it should work. The kitchenaid just makes it easier. If you do try this method, please let me know how it works for you and what you did.