I encourage ALL of you (who don’t already know how) to learn to make bread. Not only will it save you a LOT of money on bread, but it will greatly exercise your shoulders and arms!
1-3/4 cups hot water
4 cups flour
1 tsp sugar
1 packet of yeast (~ 1 TBSP yeast from a jar)
1 tsp non-iodized salt
Thoroughly clean counter top or very sturdy kneading table. Do not leave any residue of bleach or other cleaning products behind.
Combine hot water with sugar and one (1) cup of flour and yeast
Briefly whisk together
Let sit 10 min. Observe the bubbles and foam – yeast is working!
Add remaining flour and salt and mix together… WITH YOUR HANDS!
Begin kneading dough on table (or using a workout-defeating dough hook on a sturdy mixer, if you insist). Knead dough until all ingredients are thorough mixed (about 5 to 10 minutes).
Place in bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise to roughly twice its original volume. Note: If you’re in a cool room, place the bowl in a larger bowl half-filled with hot tap water (about 140 deg).
Remove and continue kneading dough for 10-15 minutes. Yes, it’s a workout! This time, your goal is to work the dough, mashing it down with your knuckles and fingers until it gets fairly sticky (that’s the gluten), while incrementally adjusting its proportions of water and flour with a few sprinkles of either here and there until it’s a nice, firm dough-ball that’s still sticky, but without excess flour falling off. Work it until it’s really sticky during kneading, then slightly flour it up to firmness. You should be able to place the ball on the counter and after a full minute, it’s still significantly more ball-shaped than pancake-shaped. If it’s still a ball, there’s too much flour. If it looks more like the Superdome, then there’s too much water.
Again, place in a bowl (if you baking it into a round bolle) or your butter-greased bread pan (if you’re baking it into a loaf) and let it rise to twice its volume (about another hour).
Arrange your oven racks to the lowest and next to lowest position, but make sure you can put a cast iron pan containing water between the two racks. If it doesn’t, then use the lowest rack position and the medium position.
Start pre-heating the oven and pizza stone to 500 deg F about half an hour before the end of that second rise time.
Once the oven has reached 500 deg F, BE VERY CAREFUL, as the hot air itself upon opening can burn you and singe your hair! Open the door, stand back for about 5 seconds to allow the majority of the hot air to exit. 95% of the retained heat is contained in the walls of your oven, not the air.
Insert bread pan on center of upper rack, or, if you’re using a baking sheet or pizza stone, place about 1/8″ of flour on the middle half and place your dough ball in the center.
Add about 1 quart of water in a cast iron pan on the lowest rack.
Cook for 10 minutes at 500 deg F, then lower the temperature to 350 deg F and cook until golden to medium brown and a skewer inserted into the bread comes out clean.
IF you’re not allergic to nuts, you can use a blender to grind half a cup of unsalted mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, etc.) into fine granules and add them to the flour. Did you know that 1 oz of mixed nuts a day reduces cardiovascular disease by up to 40%? Heart-healthy!