But I've got a 10-month old now, which means my time in the kitchen has to be shorter and well planned. So an all day bread recipe that requires several carefully timed steps just doesn't fit in my day. Enter Saf-Instant yeast. Saf-Instant can be added directly to your dry ingredients without it having to be activated in water first and is more than twice as active as regular compressed yeast. Which means you can have freshly baked bread on the table in an hour. No, seriously.
This recipe is a life saver. It requires about 10 minutes of active time (mixing, kneading, etc) and then 25 minutes to rise and 25 minutes in the oven. That's it. And then you have fresh bread coming out of the oven. And this dough is so versatile and can be shaped into French bread loaves, sandwich loaves, or even hamburger/hoagie buns. You can make it plain or you can jazz it up, like the recipe below. Here it is, all dressed up with parmesan cheese and freshly cracked peppercorn.
Other variations that have been amazing? Italian seasoning and garlic powder, brown sugar and raisins, feta cheese and kalamata olive, sharp cheddar and diced jalapeno - the list goes on and on. Just use whatever strikes your fancy!
This recipe makes 2 French bread sized loaves, so you can do more than one type if you want! Or give the extra to a friend, because who doesn't love freshly baked bread?
Oh, and this bread makes fantastic toast!
One-Hour Parmesan Peppercorn French Bread
5 1/4 cups flour (I've used AP flour, whole wheat, and bread flour and they all come out great)
3 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp. yeast
1 1/2 tbsp. oil (I usually use olive oil)
2 cups warm water (around 100 degrees F)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. freshly cracked coarse peppercorns
Coarse sea salt for topping (optional)
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well to combine. Make a well in the center and add wet ingredients. Mix into dry ingredients for a minute until it's mostly all together. Dump out on the counter and knead for 4-5 minutes. Divide dough in half. Roll each ball of dough in a large rectangularish shape about 1/4" thick. Sprinkle dough with half parmesan cheese and peppercorn. Roll up dough, starting with the long side. Place seam side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat with other ball of dough. Top with coarse sea salt if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place for 25 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350. Remove plastic wrap from risen dough and slash the top with a sharp knife or razor. Place dough in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cooling racks.