This is the tastiest bread I have ever made. It’s also the easiest because the secret ingredient in all true bread is time. The key to an addictive loaf of rich, hearty goodness is non-laborious kneading; it’s an overnight rest for the living dough. With time, water and flour naturally form an elastic dough that rises with just a small amount of yeast. Here’s how to make your own Country Bread, full of rustic whole grain goodness, or a loaf of refined white City Bread.

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients

For a loaf of Country Bread
3 cups all purpose or bread flour
1 cup whole wheat four
1/2 cup any multigrain mix (see variations)
1/2 heaping teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 cups warm water

For a loaf of City Bread
5 cups all purpose or bread flour
1/2 heaping teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups warm water

Procedure

In a large bowl whisk the dry ingredients together, evenly distributing the salt and yeast throughout the flour. Pour in the warm water and stir with the handle of a wooden spoon until a moist dough forms. Continue stirring until the dough incorporates all the loose flour in the bowl, 1 or 2 minutes in total.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place for 8-10 hours. The dough will double in size and bubble, and long elastic gluten strands will form without laborious kneading.

Dust the dough lightly with a bit of flour. Oil hands lightly and, with your fingertips, gather dough from the outside edges to the middle, knocking it down into a loose ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for a few moments until a tight ball forms. Toss the ball back in the bowl and lightly coat with a splash of vegetable oil, turning to evenly cover.

Gently roll the dough into a thin log that fits end to end in a lightly oiled 9- x 5-inch (2 L) loaf pan and, without covering, rest it a second time. In 2 to 3 hours it will double in size once more.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C). When the dough is ready, bake for 45 minutes.

Variation

Bread dough has a higher concentration of gluten in it so it will produce the strongest loaf with the most rise. All-purpose flour has less gluten but will still produce a beautiful loaf of bread. In either case the dough is strong enough to hold lots of multi-grain bits so, in the Country Bread, for a multi-grain mix, you may use a blend such as Red River cereal or a 12-grain cereal breakfast blend. You may also use plain oatmeal, cornmeal or even potato flakes.