Missing proper crusty bread? I know we are – but this recipe will give you a delicious crusty loaf with the simple, easily available ingredients. But I do need to add a disclaimer – although you make it in a daigchi or saucepan, you do need an oven. You can’t made this one on a stove-top.
With bakeries closed due to the Coronavirus lockdown in Karachi, the only bread we can find is the mass-produced white sliced loaves like Dawn Bread. While sliced supermarket-style bread is all very well it doesn’t have the crust or depth of flavour of a proper loaf but this recipe gives you a crusty, french style load using just five simple ingredients and the method is really simple too.
Although I bake cakes, muffins, cookies and more, I’ve always been a little daunted by bread. This was my first time making bread and it turned out beautifully – this recipe is well worth a try. Mine is adapted from this one by Jessie Johnson at Life As A Strawberry. I chose this recipe because it works with normal all-purpose flour and doesn’t ask for strong bread flour which isn’t readily available here. I used ordinary maida from my general store and it worked a treat.
Ingredients for Easy Crusty French Bread
- 2 teaspoons Instant Yeast
- 1 teaspoon honey (or use caster sugar if you prefer but not the granular usual cheenie/sugar)
- 1 1/4 cups warm water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 cups maida / All-Purpose Flour (360g) plus extra for dusting
How to make Homemade Crusty Bread
1. Mix the instant yeast, warm water and honey in a mug
2. Mix salt and flour in a bowl
3. Add the yeasty water to the flour mixture, stirring as you go. Mix with a fork till it’s all combined and keep mixing till all the dry bits of flour are gone and the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If you have a hand mixer with a dough attachment, it’s easiest if you use this. It’s a very slack and wet dough. I didn’t have a mixer so I gave it a little knead by hand, adding a very little flour when it got too sticky.
4. Sprinkle flour lightly all over your dough (don’t mix the flour in – it’s just to keep the dough from sticking!) and turn it over inside the mixing bowl to coat with flour on all sides. Cover with a clean tea towel and let it rise on the counter for about 1 hour, until dough has doubled in size.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. You’re now ready to shape your dough. Tip it very gently out of the bowl on the floured surface. Don’t punch it to knock the air out like you’ve seen on baking shows or in other recipes – we’ve used a short rise time and want to preserve those lovely air bubbles so treat the dough gently. If the dough is sticking, wet your hands with cold water and use them to ease the dough out.
7. Sprinkle the dough with flour and start shaping by pulling each corner of the dough outwards and then folding it to the centre. Keep repeating this action until the dough is firm and resists your folds – take your time with this because you are building the gluten and this will stop your loaf collapsing.
8. When you’re done, gently turn your dough seam side down and gently tease into a round shape using your palms on the outside of the dough. Generously flour a bowl and put the dough seam side down for its second prove (rising). This time leave it to rise for 30 mins.
9. While your dough is rising for the second time, preheat your oven to 225 Celsius (460 F). You need to preheat your daigchi and lid too. If you have a dutch oven use that. The daigchi or saucepan should hold the steam in for the crust to form. My saucepan lid didn’t fit tightly so I wrapped the kid in tin foil to cover any gaps. Before you preheat the daigchi, measure and cut a circle of parchment paper to put in the bottom to make it easier to turn out the bread.
10. When you’re ready to bake, take the preheated daigchi out of the oven using oven gloves. Place your parchment paper circle at the bottom and place the dough carefully in the daigchi, SEAM SIDE UP. Keeping the seam side creates those beautiful cracks on top of the bread so don’t forget this part. Place the lid tightly on the saucepan, using the tinfoil to block any gaps and place in the oven.
11. Bake for 30 mins and then remove the lid. At this point the bread should be taller, crusty, and very lightly browned. Bake for a further 15mins until you have a beautiful brown crust.
12. Remove from the oven and take your bread out of the daigchi and put it on a wire rack to cool. Let it cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into it. Enjoy!
You can see videos in my Instagram story about making the bread – it’s in my highlights. Quite a few people tried the recipe and I’ve added their efforts to the story.