The simplest basic bread recipe, making a tasty white loaf.
3½ c / 525 g bread flour
2 tsp finely ground sea salt
2¼ tsp active dry yeast
1⅔ c lukewarm water, about 80° F / 27° C
Fluff the flour with a spoon before measuring. Combine flour, salt, and yeast in a big mixing bowl, and mix together by hand until salt and yeast are evenly distributed.
Pour in the water and mix by hand, squishing the mixture through your fingers for about 30 seconds; the dough should be the consistency of wet play dough. If there is still some dry flour in the bowl, add another 1 or 2 tbsp more of lukewarm water; if the dough is too liquid, mix in 1 or 2 tbsp more of flour.
Seal the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for about 3 hours; at this point, the dough should have doubled in size. Place the dough in the refrigerator, and leave it for at least a day; it can also remain refrigerated for up to a week.
Oil or spray the inside of a loaf pan, then remove the dough from the refrigerator; the dough should be a bit sticky. Sprinkle about 2 tbsp of flour on the bench top and on top of the dough in the bowl; tip the bowl over, and gently squish the dough out onto the floured bench. Sprinkle another 1-2 tbsp of flour onto the top of the dough so it doesn’t stick to your hands, and flatten into a circle. Fold the left side of the dough into the centre, then fold in the right side, then gently fold the dough into a log and plop it into the oiled pan with the smooth side facing up.
Spray or brush the top of the loaf with oil so foil won’t stick to it, and cover the pan with tented aluminium foil; the tent should be loose enough so the loaf can rise about 2 inches. Leave the loaf set, undisturbed, for four hours. (Note: if you can’t bake it after four hours, let it rise for at least a couple of hours, then put it back in the fridge for 1-3 days. If it’s been refrigerated, let it return to room temperature before baking).
Set the oven rack to middle height. Preheat the oven for at least 20 minutes at 475° F / 240° C. Put the pan with the foil tent into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes. Check the loaf; if the top is a nice dark brown, take it out; if not, bake it for another 7 or 8 minutes.
Turn the loaf out of the pan and let cool on a cooling rack.