This recipe appealed to me because it is has so few ingredients, it would be a good one to have memorized and be able to just whip out when we are looking for some good bread for dinner. I do try to mostly feed my family whole wheat and multigrain breads, but we enjoy our white bread too.
Unfortunately, like the English muffins, this recipe took me 3 times before I got it right! The first time I used too much water. The dough was so wet and sticky that even with wet hands most of it ended up on my hands each time I worked it. I added flour at each step, and it ended up tough. In addition, it was the weirdest looking loaf of bread I've ever seen. More like an alien spaceship with no actual bottom. The recipe called to use a bowl lined with a floured cotton or linen cloth in the last rising, and that just didn't work for me. I decided next time I would try the parchment paper route. The second time, it actually wasn't my fault! The night before when I made the dough, I was very happy with how much better it felt. That night our electricity went out, and after the bread had sat in its bowl rising for 2 nights I figured it was no good. The third time was the winner, and after high praise from my family I knew I would be making this again soon. One thing I will improve next time is to bake the loaf lower in the oven. I had it in the middle and the top got so dark so fast that I baked it more like 25 minutes. It was almost too done on top, and since it didn't bake as long as it could have the crust was almost too soft and difficult to slice. However, the insides were divine!
Mother Earth News - December 2010/January 2011, modified slightly
1 pound unbleached white flour
1 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup water
Baking stone or cookie sheet
Pizza peel or heavy piece of cardboard
Note: If rehydrating yeast with water, subtract amount of water you add to the yeast from the 1 1/3 cups in the recipe.
Starting the night before, in a large bowl use your hands to mix the flour, yeast, salt, and enough water to form a soft and sticky dough, though the exact consistency may vary with the flour used. Cover, and let the dough rise at room temperature. When you get up in the morning, wet your hands, lift the dough onto a wet surface, and gently stretch and fold it in half 2 to 4 times. Return dough to the same bowl, cover, and let it rise until it has doubled in size. About 1-4 hours, depending on room temperature.
When the dough has doubled, gently turn out onto a work surface, and with wet hands stretch and fold another 2 to 4 times until the dough begins to stiffen and assume the shape of a ball. Place a piece of parchment paper in a large skillet, and gently place ball on paper. Cover, and let rise until dough has doubled again, 1-4 hours, depending on room temperature.
Lower oven rack to right below the middle, and preheat oven to 500 degrees with baking stone or cookie sheet already in oven. Put a pan of water in oven to add humidity and improve bread crust. When dough is ready, gently dust top with flour, then lift out and place parchment with dough onto pizza peel. Slide into oven (with the parchment) and bake until crust is golden brown on top and the bottom thumps like a drum (about 30-40 minutes). Set to cool bottom-up for at least 2 hours before slicing. You will hear the crust cracking as it cools.