Country Crust Bread

This is a fabulous bread and definitely opened my eyes to the world of homemade bread. Aside from the nice, crisp crust, the inside is wonderfully soft, hearty and the slight sweetness of honey really shines through. I highly recommend trying out this bread, especially for those who are a bit intimidated by using yeast. If I can do it, you most definitely can!

In Bridget’s blog, she has some beautiful pictures of her bread in a braid form. I initially tried to form mine into a braid, but it didn’t work out too well. I think it might have been my anxiousness to get it baking. What I did for my loaf was divide the dough into 2 after it doubled inside the oven. I rolled it out onto a floured surface and halved the dough. With each half, I divided it again in thirds to form ‘logs’ and braided them. I placed both braids on top of each other in my loaf pan and let that rise… and baked as directed in the recipe. The result is a braided crust and the inside of the bread still came out very uniform! Thank you Bridget for sharing this with me and restoring my faith in working with yeast!

Country Crust Bread
adapted from Betty Crocker and Cooks Illustrated
from the blog, Bridget of The Way the Cookie Crumbles
Makes one 9-inch loaf

3 – 3½ cups (15 – 17½ ounces) unbleached flour, plus extra for work surface
1½ teaspoons table salt
1 cup water, warm (110 degrees)
1 egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons honey
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) rapid-rise yeast (also called instant)

1. Adjust oven rack to low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain heat 10 minutes, then turn off oven heat.

2. Mix flour, salt, and yeast in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix water, egg, butter, and honey in 1-quart Pyrex liquid measuring cup. Turn machine to low and slowly add liquid. When dough comes together, increase speed to medium (setting number 4 on a KitchenAid mixer) and mix until dough is smooth and satiny, stopping machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook if necessary, about 10 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead to form smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.

3. Place dough in very lightly oiled bowl, rubbing dough around bowl to lightly coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.

4. Form dough into loaf by gently pressing the dough into a rectangle, one inch thick and no wider than the length of the loaf pan. Next, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam side up and pinch it closed. Finally, place dough in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan.

5. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in warm spot until dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees, placing empty loaf pan on bottom rack. Bring 2 cups water to boil.

6. Remove plastic wrap from loaf pan. Place pan in oven, immediately pouring heated water into empty loaf pan; close oven door. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted at angle from short end just above pan rim into center of loaf reads 195 degrees, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove bread from pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.