-3 1/4 cups flour (high protein or bread flour is best)
-1.5 cups room temp. water
-3/4 Tbs bread yeast
-3/4 Tbs kosher salt
1) Place the water in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast and with a whisk, gently incorporate the yeast into the water until fully dissolved.
2) Using a scoop and level method (this actually packs more flour into the measuring cup than other methods) measure out your flour. Reserve 1/4 cup to the side, and put the rest into a heavy duty mixer with a dough attachment. This recipe results in a sticky dough that is difficult to knead by hand, so a mixer is rather necessary. Right before adding the yeast water, add the salt and give it a quick stir to dissolve it. Add all the water to the mixer bowl. Start the mixer on low until the water is incorporated and then bring it up to a medium speed.
3) Let the mixer knead the dough for a few minutes. Take a look at the bottom of the bowl, after 5 minutes of mixing has the dough come clean of the bowl? If not add just a little of the reserved flour, a spoonful at a time, until the dough releases. With lightly wet hands, move the dough ball back into the large mixing bowl you’d made the water yeast mixture in. Again, this dough will be fairly wet and sticky but should mostly hold its shape. Form it into a loose ball, re-wet your hands and rub the top of the ball to get it wet and then cover with a clean, wet kitchen towel. Leave in a warm area and let rise until doubled in size: about 2 hours.
4) After dough has doubled punch it down, cover it with cling wrap loosely and place it in the fridge for at least an hour or for up to a few weeks. The cooling of the dough makes it easier to work with (because it is a wetter than average bread dough) If it will be in there for more than a few hours you need to make sure that it is covered so that bacteria won’t fall into it but so it has room to breath fresh air.
5) Place one rack towards the top of the oven. You want about g inches or more from the rack to the top. Place a large pizza stone on this rack. Place another rack on the lowest setting. On this rack place a broiler pan or any other large pan. Heat your oven to 450 degrees. Remove the dough from the fridge punch it down and form into a ball. Dust the surface with a bit of flour. Using a serrated knife, cut the ball in half. Each ball should be about 1.5lbs. Quickly take the dough and giving it a quarter turn at a time, take the edge and shove it to the bottom of your cupped hand. Imagine peeling a banana, work from sides and push down. Pinch all the “ends” together. If you want your loaf to be a ball you’re already done. You can experiment with your bread by making it into loaves, or any other shape you want. The smaller or flatter it is, the less time it will take to cook. Rolling the bread out or making fancy shapes will probably mean you’ll have to keep dusting with flour from time to time.
6) Once you are happy with the shape of your bread, cover it with a damp kitchen towel ( a light weight one) and leave to rise for 40 min to an hour. Now you have to decide what type of crust you want. If you have a ball or a round loaf, I recommend giving it a nice crunchy thick crust. To do so, wet your hands and give the top of the loaf a light coating of water. You can also use a spray bottle. If you have a thin flattened loaf, I recommend just going with a flour dusting. It won’t be in the oven long enough to develop a thick crust anyway. Scoring the bread with a serrated knife on top will help allow it to puff up in the oven. Make sure to get a little water or flour into the scores so they don’t just close up on themselves again.
7) Now grab a measuring cup and get 1 cup of tap water. Move it so it is right next to the oven. Move your bread on its board right next to the oven. We want to keep the time the oven is open to a minimum. Open the oven and pull out the top rack. Quickly put your bread on the pizza stone. Now quickly pull out the bottom rack just a bit. Pour the water quickly into the middle of the pan, if it spills a bit that’s ok. Close the oven quickly to trap the steam.
8) Cook the bread for anywhere between 15-35 minutes depending on how thick you made the bread. Try not to open the oven. Check with your oven light if possible. If you’re going for a crusty bread, it will ring hollowly when you thump on the bottom of the loaf. For thinner breads, it will be done when the top looks done.