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Crusty Homemade Bread

Crackling homemade bread makes an average day extraordinary. Enjoy this beautiful crusty bread recipe as is, or stir in a few favorites like cheese, garlic, herbs and dried fruits. —Megumi Garcia, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Total Time
    Prep: 20 min. + rising Bake: 50 min.
  • Makes
    1 loaf (16 slices)

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1-3/4 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 3-1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal or additional flour

Directions

  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Using a rubber spatula, stir in 3-1/2 cups flour and salt to form a soft, sticky dough. Do not knead. Cover and let rise at room temperature 1 hour.
  • Stir down dough (dough will be sticky). Turn onto a floured surface; with floured hands pat into a 9-in. square. Fold square into thirds, forming a 9x3-in. rectangle. Fold rectangle into thirds, forming a 3-in. square. Place in a large greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise at room temperature until almost doubled, about 1 hour.
  • Punch down dough and repeat folding process. Return dough to bowl; refrigerate, covered, overnight.
  • Grease the bottom of a disposable foil roasting pan with sides at least 4 in. high; dust pan with cornmeal. Turn dough onto a floured surface. Knead gently 6-8 times; shape into a 6-in. round loaf. Place into prepared pan; dust top with remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Cover pan and let rise at room temperature until dough expands to a 7-1/2-in. loaf, about 1-1/4 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 500°. Using a sharp knife, make a slash (1/4 in. deep) across top of loaf. Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake on lowest oven rack 25 minutes.
  • Reduce oven setting to 450°. Remove foil; bake bread until deep golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Remove loaf to a wire rack to cool.

Crusty Homemade Bread Tips

Why do bakers put flour on top of bread?

Bakers dust the tops of bread loaves with flour before scoring to give the bread a rustic appearance.

Why does steam make bread crusty?

Once steam hits the outer layer (crust), the starches on the surface gelatinize. When mixed with the oven's heat, this causes the outer layer to harden and give it that crackly consistency.

What do you eat with crusty bread?

This bread is so delicious on its own with a heavy smear of butter, jam or honey. But it’s also perfect for dunking in your favorite sauce or soup (like creamy white chili) or marinara sauce. A fresh green salad is also a nice accompaniment.

How can you tell when bread is finished baking?

The traditional method to test the doneness of bread is to tap on the bottom of the loaf and listen for a hollow thump. But if you are unsure, double-check the internal temperature of the loaf; it should be 200° to 210°. Don't have a foil pan for baking? A Dutch oven works great as well, but you should halve the recipe.

What temperature should you proof yeast at?

To proof yeast, it should be proved and dissolved in warm water with a temperature between 110-115°.

What variations could you make of this crusty bread recipe?

You can make cheddar cheese, rustic cranberry and orange or garlic and oregano variations. After refrigerating dough overnight, knead in 4 ounces diced sharp cheddar cheese, 1 cup dried cranberries and 4 teaspoons grated orange peel or 1/2 cup liquified garlic (to liquify, just add 1/4 cup 2% milk, microwave on high for 45 seconds and discard milk) and 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano before shaping.
Nutrition Facts
1 slice (calculated without add-ins): 105 calories, 0 fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 296mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 1g fiber), 3g protein.

Reviews

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Average Rating:
  • Matthew
    Feb 5, 2021

    This bread is SO GOOD! I made the dough a few days ago, and stuck it in the fridge. Just remembered it today. I didn’t cover it properly so the top layer was sort of dry. I peeled that off. Then I sprinkled a bunch of cheddar cheese into the dough, and re-folded a few times. I used two of those aluminum pans, one and half half of the other, so I didn’t have to cover it with foil. Other than that I followed the instructions exactly. It came out SO great! Beautiful golden brown crust, crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Incredible! Way tastier than what you get at the grocery store. I have used the New York Times recipe for incredibly easy crusty bread, but I think all these rises and resting of the dough here really helps with the flavor, airiness, and crunch. Highly recommended!

  • Carolanne
    Feb 2, 2021

    Loved the bread but would love to know what size aluminum pan is suggested.

  • William
    Jan 31, 2021

    Not enough info to make this bread. Sorry

  • Elaine
    Jan 24, 2021

    I've made this so many times and it's awesome. I have never put it in the refrigerator overnight though. After the second rise I knead it a few times, shape it and let it rise in the pan and bake it. It's always perfect. Must make it often.

  • toper1
    Jan 23, 2021

    Will recipe work if I reduce salt or delete it completely??

  • ycruz6
    Jan 22, 2021

    excited to try to make this today just one question, Is the pan the one you get for turkey? im stumped

  • Wendy
    Jan 16, 2021

    Well I have a question. The cornmeal on the bottom of the pan burned and smoked in the hot oven and I had to remove the bread and place in another pan. It did burn the bottom a bit, but everything else was good. did I do something wrong?

  • Elise
    Jan 4, 2021

    FANTASTIC BREAD!!! I have made this a dozen times already and it is FOR SURE a keeper! Very easy, just takes a little planning for the rise time. I use instant yeast, add it to the flour with salt, then add the water. The reusable foil roasting pan (great idea!) is stored in my oven when not in use. My husband eats a loaf a week! The crust is awesome and the inside is delicious. It's a beautiful looking bread too. Started making this during the pandemic instead of running to the store every week for fresh bread. I will continue making this forever! And, I only messed up once, by forgetting to cover the bread with foil the first 25 mins. I knew something wasn't right and after 18 mins. I added the foil, turned the oven down to 450 deg and baked for only 15 mins. more. It wasn't burned but wasn't far from it! The inside was a little denser than if I'd cooked it correctly. It was an interesting screw up LOL. Was good and we enjoyed it. This bread is so good in our opinion it doesn't need any herbs. One tip: it slices much easier when it's completely cooled. Thank you for sharing this recipe, and if anyone has a great recipe like this for crock pot cooking I'd love to have it. Come summer I don't use my oven often so would like an alternate. Happy New Year! You HAVE to try this bread!!!

  • Melvin
    Dec 26, 2020

    This is an excellent recipe. I have made it several times, and it always turns out good. However, I’d like to add two things to the conversation. First, the dough is always really wet when I make it, so I reduced the water by a quarter cup. This works really well for me. Second, and this is the important part, instead of using a pan and aluminum foil, I bought two aluminum foil roasting pans at the grocery store. You know, the cheap ones that come in different sizes. I put the dough in one and cover it with the other. It comes out beautifully. And as an added bonus, they are reusable. LOVE IT!

  • Kimberly
    Oct 29, 2020

    Have made this twice - Love it so much and have shared it too.