In response to several requests, here is one of my favorite base recipes...
the saturday white bread
(an adaptation from Flour Water Salt Yeast: the Fundamentals of Artisan Bread & Pizza by Ken Forkish)
ingredients (this is half of what is called for in his book, enough to make 1 loaf - I start this bread on the first cup of coffee and bake it around 4pm. It's pushing the river a bit - depends on the heat in the kitchen... basically, the dough tells me when it's ready to be baked)
360g water at 90-95-degrees F (the temp is key, but I adjust the amount depending on the weather and humidity in the kitchen)
10g fine sea salt
2-3g instant yeast (I use SAF yeast)
(3-4 healthy sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped + a mix of roughly chopped olives - these are my additions, not recommended by Mr. Forkish)
Ok, so I really recommend you find his book. He explains the why of the how - which will help you adapt this to your kitchen, and for those who are new to bread baking it's a wonderful introduction. Here's the gist:
1. Autolyse. Combine the flour with the water in a large bowl. Cover and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.
(my hands are small, so I go rogue and start mixing with a very large rubber spatula and then use my hands to get it to the right texture. My tried and true way to "cover" is to use a silicone lily pad that fits the bowl, then cover that with a flour sack towel and put it in the sunniest part of the kitchen.)
2. Sprinkle the yeast and salt over the top of the dough and mix by hand until fully enclosed.
(Mr. Forkish has a specific technique he suggests - I find his "pincer" method works really well. Knead your favorite way until the dough has some tension in it, and is completely smooth. Oddly enough, I do this in the oversized bowl - a habit I formed from living in very small kitchens with no counter space...
3. Let it rest. He suggests 2-3 folds - usually during the first 1 1/2 hrs - but I tend to feel it out - when it bubbles, I fold it (and at this point add in the fresh rosemary and olives).
After an hour or two when it bubbles again, I fold it again.
Ok - so here's where I veer from the recipe - let me say though, I recommend first following his guidelines... It's science. If you know all the moving parts, it will help you troubleshoot when the day goes NOT how I imagined it and the bread continues to follow her own science...
4. Shape - Mr. Forkish uses floured proofing baskets - I used to go this route too... but lately I shortcut this and keep the dough in the bowl - folding it a final time right before I put the dutch oven in the oven as it heats to temp
5. The suggested heat is 475-degrees. Our induction runs really hot, so I put it around 435-degrees. Once the oven is to temp, VERY CAREFULLY, I take out the dutch oven, and with a wet hand, scoop the dough out of the bowl and plop it into the cast iron in as neat a round as I can muster, put on the lid, and bake for 30 minutes.
When the timer rings, take off the lid. Bake another 17-22 minutes (depending on the look of the bread at this point) - I always check it at 15 minutes and take it out when it smells right... And if in doubt, I turn off the oven, put the lid back on, and let residual heat finish the cooking.
As soon as it's done, take it out of the dutch oven and put it on a rack to cool.
We slice the entire loaf the day it is baked and freeze anything left over. Fabulous toasted in the morning or with a bowl of soup.
p.s. Some of these instructions may appall professional bakers - I would offer in my defense that only after countless hours spent making various recipes, exactly as they were written in this wonderful tome, did I start to bend the rules... I found where my adaptations failed gloriously, and where they somehow held... I do find one of the great secrets is knowing the texture the dough must be, before you ask it to rise... (plus knowing your oven... and being willing to experiment...)