Makes 1 large or 2 medium loaves
There is little that can compare with the joy derived from a kitchen filled with the aroma of fresh bread, just out of the oven. Many people are afraid of bread making, but believe me, it is one of the easiest and most rewarding of all the kitchen arts. Once you discover just how easy it is I’m sure you will become hooked.
½ cup warm water
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon Instant Yeast
Put all ingredients into a small bowl and stir well. Set aside in a warm place for 15 to 20 minutes or until the mixture is frothy and bubbling a bit.
The ferment plus:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups warm water
Mix the flour and water together in a large bowl and add the ferment. Mix well, cover with a clean cloth or plastic and leave in a warm place until the mixture is “spongy” and bubbling. This will probably take from 30 minutes to an hour.
About ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt, depending on taste
4 to 4 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
When the sponge is “working,” add the salt and begin adding add the flour, one cup at a time and stirring well after each addition. When the mixture is too stiff to stir, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and begin kneading and adding the remaining flour until you have a firm yet malleable dough. Knead until all stickiness is gone and the dough is smooth and glossy. Form into a ball and place in a clean lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean cloth or plastic and leave in a warm place until it has risen to double its original bulk. Punch it down, turn it over and allow to rise a second time. The amount of time it will take to rise will vary greatly depending on climate and temperatures.
Forming and Baking the Loaves
After the second rising, turn the tough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very lightly. Form into 1 large or 2 smaller loaves. Paint the surface with egg wash, (an egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of cold water) and with the tip of a sharp knife or a razor blade make several shallow slits in the top of each loaf. Place the loaves on baking sheets lined with Bakers Parchment and leave until nearly double in size.
Place the risen loaves in a pre-heated 350° oven and bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes for smaller loaves, 45 to 50 minutes for one large loaf.