Don't be intimidated by those beautiful and delicious crusty breads that call to you from the bakery.
Even amateur home cooks can crank out gorgeous loaves with a crisp shell and a wonderfully soft center that just begs to be slathered with butter and eaten right from the oven.
We created this simple crusty bread recipe for just those cooks. It's quick (at least in terms of hands-on time), simple and might just convince you to give up store-bought bread.
EASY CRUSTY BREAD
Start to finish: 3 hours (20 minutes active)
Makes 1 loaf
1 1/2 cups slightly warm water
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
Cornstarch, for dusting
In a large bowl, combine the water, whole-wheat flour, sugar, yeast and 1 cup of the bread flour. Stir until smooth. Let stand until doubled in size and bubbly, about 60 minutes.
Add the rest of the flour and the salt and knead in the bowl until smooth. The dough will be very sticky. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Fold the dough over on itself. Repeat the rest-and-fold process 5 more times. The dough should become very elastic and stretchy with big bubbles of air.
Heat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then dust it with cornstarch.
Using floured hands, place the dough on the prepared baking sheet. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Spritz the loaf with water, then bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped. Transfer to a rack to cool fully cool.
Nutrition information per serving (assumes 8 servings per loaf) (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 200 calories; 10 calories from fat (4 percent of total calories); 1 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 41 g carbohydrate; 7 g protein; 2 g fiber; 480 mg sodium.