From the author: For $5 you can make several loaves of some of the greatest bread you’ve had. And don’t be fooled by the ‘easy’ skill level – it’s easier than that. Also, don’t be thrown off by the prep time. A large majority of the time consists of simply waiting for the dough to rise while you do whatever else you want. It barely counts. Free Formed Bread for the win!
The other thing I love about this recipe is that it makes a large batch of dough, which you throw in a freezer bag, put in the fridge and when you want some bread, you can cut off a chunk and in a little over an hour, you have a fresh loaf.
Seriously, try this. I did and I can’t stop eating it.
One of the greatest pleasures in life is digging into a loaf of freshly baked bread. The smell, the warmth, and that soft texture are so good and comforting, right? This is why this recipe is so precious to us. You can have it any day in the comfort of your home, and it doesn’t take days or amazing baking skills to achieve it.
Minimum Ingredients & Maximum Flavor
Our favorite recipes are usually the ones that use very few and basic pantry-staple ingredients, and this one definitely falls under that category. To prepare this fluffy Free Formed Bread, you’ll only need water, yeast, salt and flour. Nothing more. The secret of this bread (as with many other kinds) is in the process, or should I say in patience?
Patience is a virtue. It turns out the saying applies 100% to this Free Formed Bread recipe. I wish I could tell you the process is quick … but it isn’t. Why? Because we need to give time for the bread to rise. The process of rising is what makes bread fluffy and irresistible. We promise you, though, it’s definitely worth the wait!
1 ½tablespoonsof granulated yeastabout 2 packets - any brand/style will do
1 ½tablespoonsof coarse salt
6 ½cupsof unbleached all-purpose flour
Add the yeast and the salt to the warm water (about 110 degrees F) in a large bowl. You don't need to mix it or wait for it to dissolve
Add the water. No need to sift or pack the flour. Simply scoop it up, sweep level, and add all of it to the water mixture
Use a wooden spoon or your (very wet) hands to mix in the flour. It's not necessary to knead the dough. Just mix it together until it's uniformly moist.
Cover the bowl and allow it to rise in a warm spot until it's about twice its size. I cover it with a hand towel and put it in the sun. This will take about 2 hours.
It's recommended that you allow the dough to then sit in the fridge for a few hours, but if you're like me, you're ready to eat. Cut off a grapefruit sized chunk of dough and with floured hands, stretch and mold it into a ball. Again, no need to knead - this shouldn't take more than 60 seconds.
Place the ball of dough onto a heavily floured surface you can later use to slide the dough into the oven (like a pizza peel). Flour the top of the ball and use a knife to cut a couple of slices into the top. Allow the dough to sit and rise for 40 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn the oven on to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) and place a baking surface on the middle rack (a baking stone works best but a cookie sheet will work).
After 40 minutes, slide the dough on to the baking surface. The trick is to add a pan with 1 cup of water to the bottom rack, which will help bake the bread with steam, making it soft in the middle. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
Keep the rest of the dough covered or in a freezer bag in the fridge until you're ready for another loaf (it will keep for well over a week). The initial dough making is the tedious part. However, when you're ready for a loaf, cut off a chunk of dough, spend 60 seconds to roll the dough into a ball, let rise for 40 minutes and cook for 30. You'll have fresh bread for 60 seconds of work.