This is one of the easiest and most versatile loaves of bread I’ve ever made. It can go from sweet to savory with simple mix-ins, and it is a great gift for carb-lovers. My friend Donna calls this one “THE LOAF” for a reason.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon yeast*
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups warm water
Whisk together flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. Stir in water until a shaggy ball forms. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise overnight (12-18 hours).
*You can use fast-rising yeast in this recipe; however, the bread won’t have quite the same “tang” as it does if left to rise overnight. Conversely, you can build-up an almost sourdough-like quality from the bread by letting it rise in the fridge instead.
Place a Dutch oven, including the lid, on the middle rack of a cold oven and preheat it to 400 degrees. Prepare any add-ins (see note below). Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and quickly form it into a ball, adding flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (the dough is a little on the wet side, so a damp cloth would not be recommended) and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Note: I would suggest experimenting with mix-ins after you’ve made this loaf a few times. You can add them while forming the dough into a ball and adjust the amount of flour used based on how wet the ingredients are. I personally like to add whole, raw garlic cloves that roast inside the loaf while its cooking. I have been equally successful with wetter ingredients like olives and jalapeños – but I would love to hear your variations on sweet and savory in the comments below!
After the dough has rested and the Dutch oven has been sufficiently pre-heated, carefully place the dough ball into the preheated Dutch oven and bake, lid on, for 30 minutes. The steam that is trapped inside the Dutch oven will cause the loaf to bake evenly and create a crispy crust that is typically hard to achieve with a homemade loaf.
Remove the lid and return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes until the loaf is a deep golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool on a wire rack before shoving it directly into your face – or, you know, you exert some self control and share it with others.