Recently, I've been making homemade bread a lot. For one thing, it just tastes better. For another thing, it's inexpensive, easy, and healthier than buying loaves at the store.
I've been using a master recipe from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
The bread is delicious and easy. The dough makes multiple loaves, and keeps in the fridge for about 2 weeks. And it really does take about 5 minutes of prep time. Of all the 'fast and easy' bread recipes I've tried, this one is tops. The basic recipe, along with some variations are available free online.
But there are a few changes I've made that I do think improve the end result.
Here's my variation, based on the original:
3 cups lukewarm water
1.5 tablespoons yeast
1.5 packets, or do yourself a favor and buy it in bulk, and store it in the refridgerator. Far cheaper
1 scant tablespoon salt
The original recipe calls for 1.5 tbsp, which, if you butter your bread with salted butter makes it far far too salty for my tastes
6.5 cups flour
I've been using 5 cups of white, 1/2 cup bran flour, 1 cup wheat flour. You can also use bread flour for 1/2 cup, which will make it denser and chewier. If you want a more whole grain bread, use the whole wheat bread variation with additional grains in the article.
Liberal dusting of cornmeal or flour for your baking pan
The original recipe calls for a pizza peel. I dont happen to have one, so I've been using a cookie sheet. Works fine.
Follow the instructions in the article, with the following variations:
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. I don't have an oven that takes 20 minutes or more to preheat, so I wait the about 5 minutes for it to preheat fully and then pop the bread in.
Add a pan of water to a lower shelf before you turn on the oven if you don't have a reservoir built in. Make sure there's a fair amount of water in the pan.
My bread was still pretty chewy at the specified 30 minute mark, so I let it go 35-40 minutes, watching it closely the last 5-10 minutes.
This is a great recipe for busy families, and was a huge hit in my home.