I have been baking bread here and there for a while and have a few recipes I like (and even more I want to try). Most of the recipes I've attempted so far are for artisan "free-form" (or boule) loaves baked on a pizza stone, which look cool, but don't exactly make your prototypical sandwich-type bread. And one of my artisan bread books discouraged me from using a metal pan, saying it wouldn't result in a crunchy crust, which is one of the things I love best about bread. Still, I wanted to make an "actual" loaf of bread! I had several bread pans for large 2-pound loaves, but I could tell that the amount of dough I was mixing would never be enough to fill one. So I went out and bought a 1-pound loaf pan at Bed Bath & Beyond last weekend. Last night I finally had the opportunity to use it, and I was THRILLED with how my latest loaf turned out!
It was hard to wait for it to cool down to taste! Despite the warnings, the crust IS still crunchy, and the bread is chewy inside. It will make a fantastic grilled-cheese sandwich, or, as Mike suggested, French toast! Yum!
This is the recipe I used, adapted slightly from Judith Fertig's 200 Fast and East Artisan Breads. I had been making a half recipe of dough and then using half of that for a loaf, but this time I just cut the recipe below in half and used all the dough for a single loaf:
Easy Artisan Dough and Bread
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour (King Arthur)
1 1/2 tbsp. instant or bread machine yeast
1 tbsp. fine table or kosher salt (the author used 1 1/2 tbsp. I tried that in other loaves and it was too salty for our tastes)
3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees F)
Half-recipe of prepared dough (above)
2 cups hot water
For the dough:
Spoon the flour into a measuring cup, level, and place in mixing bowl. Add the yeast and salt. Stir together. Pour in the water and stir until just moistened. Beat 40 strokes, scraping the bottom and the sides of the bowl until the dough forms a lumpy, sticky mass. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature (72 degrees) in a draft-free place (my laundry room is the best!) for 2 hours or until the dough has risen nearly to the top of the bowl and has a sponge-like appearance. The dough can be used immediately or refrigerated in a covered (not air-tight) container for up to 9 days.
For the bread:
Place the dough on a floured surface and dust lightly with flour. Working the dough as little as possible, add flour as necessary and form the dough into a rectangular loaf. The dough should feel soft and smooth but not at all sticky. Spray a 1-pound metal loaf pan with cooking spray and place the dough in it. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for 40 minutes at room temperature. About 30 minutes before baking, place the broiler pan on the lower shelf of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Just prior to baking, using a serrated knife, cut into the risen dough at an angle (about 3 evenly spaced slashes), approximately 1/2" deep (which is tricky when the loaf is in a metal pan!). Place the dough pan into the pre-heated oven on the middle shelf and pour 2 cups of HOT water into the broiler pan below it. Close the oven door right away so the steam will fill the oven. Bake for 23-27 minutes or until the crust is a medium brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaf registers at least 190 degrees. Remove the loaf and allow to cool before cutting.
Calories:Entire Recipe - 2,860 (approximately 2.1 c/gram)
Another critical baking tool I picked up recently is an instant-read digital thermometer. After a few loaves that looked done on the outside, but weren't so much on the inside, I purchased an inexpensive but sufficient model at WalMart. Love it and now there is NO QUESTION if the bread is done on the inside!