Very Basic Bread

Total Time:
13 hr 30 min
30 min
12 hr
1 hr

1 loaf bread

  • 1 pound bread flour, plus extra for shaping
  • 1 teaspoon instant rapid rise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 10 ounces bottled or filtered water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 quarts hot water
  • Vegetable oil, for greasing the rising container
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Combine 5 ounces of the flour, 1/4 teaspoon of the yeast, all of the honey, and all of the bottled water in a straight-sided container; cover loosely and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.

Place the remaining 11 ounces of flour, remaining yeast, and all the salt into the bowl of a stand mixer, and add the pre-ferment from the refrigerator. Using the dough hook attachment, knead the mixture on low for 2 to 3 minutes just until it comes together. Cover the dough in the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, knead the dough on medium speed for 5 to 10 minutes or until you are able to gently pull the dough into a thin sheet that light will pass through. The dough will be sticky, but not so sticky that you can't handle it.

While the dough is kneading, pour half of the hot water into a shallow pan and place on the bottom rack of your oven.

Grease the inside of a large straight-sided container with the vegetable oil. Place the dough ball into the container and set on the rack above the pan of water. Allow to rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 to 2 hours.

Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it onto a counter top, lightly dust your hands with flour, and press the dough out with your knuckles; then fold 1 side in towards the middle of the mass and then the other, as if you were making a tri-fold wallet. Repeat the folding a second time. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for another 10 minutes.

Flatten dough again with your knuckles and then fold the dough in onto itself, like you are shaping something that looks like a jellyfish. Turn the dough over and squeeze the bottom together so that the top surface of the dough is smooth. Place the dough back onto the counter and begin to roll gently between your hands. Do not grab the dough but allow it to move gently back and forth between your hands, moving in a circular motion. Move the dough ball to a pizza peel or the bottom of a sheet pan that has been sprinkled with the cornmeal. Cover with the kitchen towel and allow to bench proof for 1 hour, or until you poke the dough and it quickly fills back in where you poked it.

Place an unglazed terra cotta dish upside down into the oven and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the 1/3 cup of water and the cornstarch in a small bowl. Uncover the dough and brush the surface with this mixture. Gently slash the top surface of the dough ball in several places, approximately 1/3 to 1/2-inch deep. Add more of the hot water to the shallow pan if it has evaporated. Slide the bread onto the terra cotta dish in the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Once the bread has reached an internal temperature of 205 to 210 degrees F, remove to a cooling rack and allow to sit for 30 minutes before slicing.

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4.7 118
The bread is good, but the recipe is overcomplicated. This recipe could be simplified, even at the cost of the bread's quality, because 'very basic bread' should be a stepping stone to 'bread'. item not reviewed by moderator and published
This bread is very good but also very sticky. Prepare to use a lot of flour when kneading. I'm going to try adding in Rosemary on my second run-through. item not reviewed by moderator and published
I use this as the basis for my everyday bread. One thing I have noticed is that Alton Brown always bakes HOT - meaning that his *finished internal temperature* is too hot, and therefore dry, for my tastes. This is true for his breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, quickbreads, you name it. Because he always lists the doneness temp, you can adjust as needed - Yey Alton - instead of the blind "bake for 45 minutes or until done" instructions. I like it pulling this bread out at 185 F. It usually coasts up to 190 F with residual heat, then slowly recedes in temperature over the next couple of hours. As an experiment, leave the oven probe thermometer in the bread for the entire cooling cycle. Alton always accounts for residual heat when cooking meat. I don't remember him mentioning it at all in baking. item not reviewed by moderator and published
I love Alton, like most of us.. But every single one of his recipes always calls for way too long of cook times.. Whether its frying, or baking, it always seems long. I just made this recipe for the first time, I have a NORMAL, non convection oven.. Pre-heated to 400 degrees, within 15 minutes the crust already had a nice brown finish.. Nice to the point of it being done. I rotated the pan at that time and let it go another 15 minutes (30 minutes in At 30 minutes, I had enough, the bread was turning black.. I checked its temp and it was already at 210 degrees. Its cooling now on the counter on a rack, but I must say, it looks BURNT! and its annoying, after spending so much time on something to have it look black. This bread was in the over for less than HALF of what was called, I would love to send a picture to Alton and ask him "What is up dude?!" BTW, this is a brand new oven, not 3 months old. item not reviewed by moderator and published
Years ago I had a fairly high-end bread maker and tried dozens of different recipes and box mixes. None of the scratch recipes ever came close to the best of the box mixes, but the good boxed mixes were nearly as expensive as a loaf of bakery bread. This recipe with the flavor and texture developed by the pre-fermentation is better than any bread I've previously done, better than the bread my mother or grandmother used to make with much finer grain structure and more flavor. I didn't use the mixer, but rather kneaded the bread by hand for about 10 minutes using a rams-head kneading pattern that I use for kneading ceramic clay. Didn't have a terracotta dish, and wasn't excited enough to figure out how to get one home from a home store on my motorcycle, so i just threw a kiln shelf in the oven from my smaller kiln and it worked perfectly, item not reviewed by moderator and published
I have prepared this recipe 5 times recently and I love the bread's flavor and its crust. It is so delicious! Also, it's a perfect size for our 2 person household. I prefer to omit the refrigeration step leaving the starter on the counter for 4-6 hours; then I proceed exactly as specified. For the final proof step, I place the dough on parchment paper which moves easily to the oven where I bake it on our pizza stone. It is usually done in 25 minutes. The instant read thermometer is very helpful, too. Tasty! item not reviewed by moderator and published
Tasty but tough to handle. I used bread flour, weighed ingredients, carefully followed each step, added extra flour to handle (about 1/3 c in all, kneaded appropriate times, allowed to rest appropriate times, and still I get a spreading blob at final step. The 'tighten up' never happens. I get a nice low profile free form loaf that tastes good. Oh, well. Pans for me and no nice crust. item not reviewed by moderator and published
Thank you Alton! I am 61 and been baking bread for years. I have Williams Sonoma bread baking book but without your techniques i could never get a nice, crusty, brown, tall, loaf of bread. Even williams sonoma says splitting the top is decorative. As you showed me that is not the case. What is smooth and elastic? what does that look like? You showed me. The cornstarch wash makes a perfect crust. Thank you! item not reviewed by moderator and published
the best bread I have ever made. Made some mistakes and did not have the terra cotta base (its winter and the local hardware is out dah but it still had an excellent chew. The youtube videos (pt 1-2 is invaluable in helping to explain the steps. Alton was/is always spot on with his cooking instructions item not reviewed by moderator and published
Tastes good, but yes it's basic. This was my first bread and it was probably a good starter recipe, but I'll likely look for something more adventurous for next time. I didn't have a pizza stone or ceramic pot base, so mine baked on the bottom of a large cast iron skillet turned upside down. I also don't have a pizza peel, so I did the final rise on parchment and slid it off a poly cutting board. Both of these substitutions worked out quite well. item not reviewed by moderator and published

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