I love cooking complicated dishes like a savory soufflé or steak topped with a delicate Béarnaise sauce but baking, and bread-making specifically, has always intimidated me. I’ve made plenty of quick breads but when it comes to working with yeast, I am totally out of my comfort zone. All of the kneading and proofing and essential attention to detail seemed like such a long and arduous process that I steered clear of the entire operation and headed straight to my Wegmans bakery instead. But last year, inspired by my culinary hero Ina Garten, I decided to make the leap into the wild world of bread making. I researched lots of Ina Garten’s bread recipes and tried several of them with varying degrees of success. After growing frustrated with failing at some of her more complicated recipes, I decided the best course of action was to find one simple white bread recipe and practice making it until I truly got the hang of it.
After months (yes, months) of bread testing, I realized the perfect simple white bread recipe was one I made through trial and error. I was inspired by recipes from Platter Talk and Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and used their recipes as the starting point for what I consider to be the best tasting and simplest bread recipe I have ever found. Here’s how to make it.
Easy Crusty White Bread
Yields 2 loaves
- 3 1/2 cups warm water (not hot but above room temperature)
- 7 cups bread flour, plus more for sprinkling
- 2 tbsp dry active yeast
- 2 1/2 tbsp salt
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup semolina flour
- Combine the warm water and yeast and mix until the yeast is dissolved.
- Add flour one cup at a time and mix until just combined.
- Add salt and honey and mix until all ingredients are combined.
- Place a tea towel over the bowl and let the bread rise for 2-3 hours. A warmer room will ensure a better rise.
- Sprinkle flour on dough so it is less sticky and divide the dough into two loaves. If you are only baking one loaf, place the other loaf in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to one week.
- Line a baking sheet or baking stone with parchment paper (aluminum foil also works) and sprinkle semolina flour on the parchment paper.
- Shape loaf (can be circular or oblong) and place it on the baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise for another hour.
- Preheat oven to 450° F.
- Fill an oven-safe dish with a few cups of water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven. This creates steam inside the oven and gives the bread its nice, crispy crust.
- Bake the bread at 450° F for 30 minutes with the baking sheet on the center rack.
The best part about this bread is that it’s completely customizable. You can add cheese to make it more savory or fruit and cinnamon to sweeten it up. It’s worth noting that this bread won’t last as long as normal store-bought bread so you should plan on eating it up within 2-3 days but honestly after you try it, that won’t be a problem.