I love fresh bread. Not that that makes me unique in any way, I think people have been loving fresh bread since its creation. I’m not great at planning ahead of time, so one of my favorite ways to get fresh bread on the table is this recipe. It takes just under 1 hour from start to finish and produces a lovely crusty bread (that’s not too hard for the kids) and is nice and soft on the inside. It may not have the beautiful rise or deep flavor of a traditional artisan loaf of bread, but its still head and shoulders above store bought and it has the advantage of being easy and fast. I think I found the original recipe on a blog several years ago and I wish I could remember which one. I’ve changed it slightly but my thanks still go out to the wonderful blogger who posted the original.
Fast Crusty Bread
1.5 cups of warm water (you should stick your finger in it and not feel cold or hot, just happy warm)
1 tablespoon of maple syrup (or honey)
1 tablespoon plus 1.5 teaspoons of active yeast
1.5 teaspoons of salt
3 cups of flour (I do half all purpose flour and half whole wheat bread flour. You can do all one or the other too.)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the yeast, salt, maple syrup and warm water. Stir to make sure its all mixed together and the syrup isn’t just stuck to the bottom of the bowl. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes until it gets all bubble and active, like this:
Once its bubbly, add the 3 cups of flour. You don’t have to be too exact with the measurement here, its a flexible recipe and a bit more is okay. Stir it all up until combined. If its so sticky that it sticks to your hands, add a bit more flour. I like to turn it out onto a lightly floured counter and fold it over on itself a couple of times. You are kind of kneading it but its not that critical. Shape it into a roughly 12 to 14 inch loaf, like this:
Don’t worry too much about looks at this point, it doesn’t have to be beautiful, you love it for what it is and what it will be. Cover it with a cloth napkin or towel and let it rest for 20 minutes. It will rise and get puffy. After 20 minutes, make several slashes in the crust, about 1/2 inch deep with a knife or a razor blade like so:
and then bake it in your preheated oven on a baking sheet for 20 minutes at which point it will look like this:
Let it cool on a rack if you got it, or anything not hot if you don’t. Slice and enjoy!