Mom is a great baker. Brownies, cookies, cakes… all of these are simple for her. There’s one thing, though, that she’s never been able to master: plain white bread. That’s why I’ve decided– the bored Quaranteen that I am– to master the art of the loaf in my attempt to steal her title of Household Baker Extraordinaire.
I’m using the “Easiest Loaf of Bread You’ll Ever Bake,” recipe from King Arthur Flour because it’s a 5-ingredient recipe with 44 five-star reviews, and it’s easy (supposedly), so how could I not use it? Especially as a first-time baker.
I’ve already mixed the ingredients together in a large bowl, subbing out the King Arthur unbleached bread flour for regular all-purpose flour. Reviews say this works, so I’m not too worried about this one. I also halved the recipe, since I’m working with limited ingredients and can’t exactly run to the store right now. King Arthur Flour says to “mix until everything comes together in a rough, shaggy mass of dough,” which it definitely was when I had finished mixing it. In fact, I wasn’t quite sure when I had finished mixing it because it was so rough and shaggy.
I moved everything over from the counter to the kitchen table and wiped it down with Lysol, let it dry, and lightly coated the space in front of my seat with flour. I used King Arthur Flour’s tip on how to knead the dough, which I found to be pretty helpful; when I was done kneading, the dough surprisingly looked a lot like the one in the gif under the recipe.
What did not look surprisingly like any gif in the recipe was the shape of the loaves. After I let the dough set and I cut the loaf in half, I did my best to match the recommended “6” x 8” oval,” and I think that turned out alright, but I just couldn’t roll the dough up correctly. I think my mistake lies in the fact that I used flour during this step because the dough was sticky, but I realized a bit too late that the dough was supposed to stick to itself. Here’s a comparison:
I pulled out a baking sheet, but I didn’t have any parchment, so I just left the sheet as it was. I was also missing cornmeal, so I replaced it with polenta (which I’m pretty sure is just bigger cornmeal). I put the “loaves” onto the sheet with some canola-oiled Saran Wrap over top and left it to rise for 45 minutes. At this point, I was more than halfway done with the recipe and had a bit of waiting to do, so I played Animal Crossing New Horizons until the dough was ready.
Once the dough had risen, I took off the wrap and poked the loaves to make sure it was the right time to bake them. I cut three diagonal slashes into each loaf, lightly sprinkled the dough with flour, and set the oven to preheat at 450°F. As I did that, I popped an empty cast-iron pan onto the lower shelf in the oven and put a pot of water on the stove to boil. Once the oven finished preheating, I stuck the sheet with the loaves on the top shelf of the oven and poured the boiling water into the cast iron pan. I wore oven mitts to protect my hands, but there was a ton of steam when I did this; I couldn’t see, since it had fogged up my glasses, so I closed the oven quickly. Supposedly, this trick helps to crisp the outside of the bread, while keeping the inside soft.
It took about 35 minutes for the bread to bake to golden brown, but once it was finished, it looked a lot better than I had expected it to. Mom and I gave it a taste, and I’m happy to say that we both thought it was really good! The bread was super crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, and it had just the right amount of salt to season.
I’d love to make this recipe again, but with herbs or cheese in it. I may be ahead of myself, but I’d say I’m at least on my way to snatching that baker crown from Mom any day now. On to the next adventure!