Growing up in Vietnam with my grandparents, I’ve always had the luxury of having freshly baked breads (baguettes to be more specific) every morning. The kind that is golden brown and crusty on the outside, that makes a symphony of crackles when you press into it, yet is tender and fluffy as cloud on the inside. I live in the suburb of L.A. now, and I have yet to find breads that bring back memories from my childhood.
Two summers ago, I visited my uncle in Vietnam. Of course we had bread for breakfast every morning, with sunny side up eggs, with Vietnamese ham, with butter and sugar, with condensed milk, with anything you can think of… Seriously, I can eat bread all day, every day, anytime of the day, like it’s my job! But now I’m back in L.A. again with a longing for another bite.
In the quest to find the perfect bread, I thought what’s better than a homemade loaf!?! Now, I am no artisan bread baker, and in no way have I made THE perfect bread. But I am pretty darn proud of my first loaf.
I’ve always imagined bread baking as some sort of magic. But surprisingly, this recipe was extremely simple to make.
- 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour + extra for dusting
- 1 cup of lukewarm water (100-110°F)
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Dissolve sugar in the lukewarm water and sprinkle yeast on top of the water sugar mixture. Wait 10-15 minutes for the yeast to proof. If it bubbles and expands, that means the yeast is alive! Make sure the water temperature is between 100-110°F; temperature too hot will kill the yeast.
- In the meantime, mix the 2 cups and 2 tablespoons of flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Fit your stand mixer with the dough hook. Check to make sure the yeast has expanded. Pour the water yeast mixture in the mixing bowl and turn the mixer on stir. Mix for a few minutes until combined. If not using a stand mixer, mixing with a wooden spoon will do fine. The dough should be soft and sticky.
- Once the dough is ready, you have two options: 1) leave it in the mixing bowl to rise or 2) turn it out on a well-floured board (you may need to scrape the side of the mixing bowl), shape into a ball, spray a different bowl with oil and transfer the dough to the bowl to rise. The dough will rise all the same either way, but it will be easier to take it out if it is in the oiled bowl. I went with the second option.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 1-2 hours. It should double in size. Then let it rest in the fridge overnight or a few hours before baking.
- When you’re ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge and plop it out onto a well-floured board. Shape it into a ball again and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest at room temperature while you preheat the oven and bakeware. I use a round ceramic baking casserole with lid, about 5 quart. You can use any kind of oven safe pot or bakeware with lid.
- Preheat the oven and your pot and lid to 450°F. When the oven is ready, cut a long strip of parchment paper to line the bottom of the pot, long enough so that you can lift the bread out when it is ready. Place the dough on top of the parchment paper inside the pot. Close the lid, and put it back in the oven. Be very careful as the pot and lid will be very hot! I almost burned myself. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Then cut bread, butter bread and devour bread. I had mine with some left over homemade gumbo soup and it was delicious!