Serves: 24Hands-on: 30 minutesTotal: 5 hours 30 minutesDifficulty: Medium
- 2½ tsp. active dry yeast
- 2½ cups warm water
- 2 cups unbleached bread flour
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp. salt
- Add the yeast to the water; stir to dissolve. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, until the yeast is bubbling to the top. Add the flours and salt to a mixing bowl. If using an electric mixer, use the dough hook and mix on low to combine. Pour in the yeast-water mixture. Mix on low until combined; the dough should form a ball and pull away from the side of the bowl.
- Add more water or flour, if necessary. Knead at medium-high speed for 5 minutes or until the dough is glossy and elastic. (You should be able to pull the dough gently without it sticking to your fingers.)
- Form the dough into a round and cover with a bowl turned upside down over the top. Let rise for 2 hours. Punch down, cover, and let rise for another 1½ hours. Punch down again and divide the dough in half. Roll each half into an elongated loaf. Place on a heavy baking pan treated with nonstick spray. Use a sharp knife to cut several vents into the top of each loaf. Cover with a damp cotton towel and let rise until doubled.
- As the loaves rise, place 1 shelf so that it’s in the lower third of the oven and the top shelf so it’s in the upper third. Preheat oven to 450°. Place a pan of hot water on the bottom shelf; also have a mister filled with water at the ready.
- Remove the cotton towel covering the loaves and place the baking sheet with risen bread loaves in the oven. Quickly mist water across the tops of the loaves. (This creates an immediate rush of steam and helps form a good crust.) Bake for 25 minutes or until the loaves are nicely browned and have a hollow sound when “thumped” on the bottom crust.