See part 1 of this homemade bread recipe for how to whisk up dough. This part shows you how to shape the bread dough, let it rise, and bake it. Watch the video for the easy trick of creating a gluten network without kneading.
Shape the dough. Hold your hands underneath the dough and slowly spread them so the dough almost falls through. As it falls, the dough will stick to your hands a little and stretch, creating the gluten web that will support the bread as it rises. Gather the stretched dough at the top like a very short ponytail. Turn the dough some and repeat, until you have dropped the dough and gathered it at the top of the ball five or six times, going all the way around the dough. Stretching the dough should take about a minute. Turn the dough ball over so the rough, gathered part is underneath. Pat and stretch it some until the dough is nearly loaf-shaped, then put it into the loaf pan rough side down. Press the dough down gently until it fills the bottom of the pan. Repeat with the other loaf if you are making two at the same time.
Let the dough rise again. Put the dough in a small, warm place so it can rise without drying out, such as a cake carrier or a microwave. If you don't have something to use as a rising box, then just cover the dough with a clean tea towel or piece of knit cloth. Let the dough rise for about two hours until it has doubled in size. It should be at or near the top of the bread pan.
Bake. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Put an empty pan or iron skillet on the very bottom of your oven. If you have a bread stone, put it on the bottom rack of your oven. When the dough is ready to bake, it will be at or just above the rim of the bread pan. Touch it gently with a finger and watch the dough spring back into place. Put about a half-cup of ice cubes in a bowl so you can easily put them into the empty pan in the oven without burning yourself. Open the oven, put in the bread, and slide the ice cubes into the empty pan below. Quickly close the oven door so you trap the steam from the ice cubes. Do not use convection baking since this will take away the steam.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown. The interior temperature should be 205 degrees.
Remove the bread from the oven. Remove the loaf from the pan. If you like a crisper crust, put the bread back into the oven without the pan for about three more minutes. Cool on a wire rack. (If the bread doesn't just pop out of the pan when you turn it over, slide a table knife or thin spatula around the edges of the bread to loosen it.) Let it cool all the way to room temperature before slicing it so that the bread structure can set. If you cut it while it's hot, it turns into a gummy mess. Slice with a serrated knife. Store at room temperature, wrapped in clean tea towel or piece of cotton, plastic wrap, or in a paper bag. To keep longer, wrap the bread well in plastic or foil and freeze.
Tips and notes
- Non-stick loaf pans are a must for a sticky dough like this.
- Bread rises best at temperatures between 72 and 90 F (22 to 32 C). In the winter my kitchen is at 68 degrees or colder, so I put my bread pans on a heating pad turned to low, cover it with a cake carrier, and then cover that with a clean bath towel.
- Do not refrigerate baked bread. If you do, it will go stale much faster than if you keep it at room temperature or freeze it.