Here is the easiest bread recipe I have ever come across. It will make you seem like a baker and family and friends will not believe you made it yourself. It's so easy you don't even have to knead the dough. This recipe makes 4 small loaves and you can leave it in your fridge for up to 2 weeks and bake it when ready. The longer you leave it in the fridge, the more sourdough type flavour you will develop.
Ingredients 680 g lukewarm water
10 g dried yeast
10 g salt
910 g plain flour (not bread flour)
In a container large enough to hold 6 litres, add the water, yeast and salt and give a quick stir to combine.
Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is fully incorporated.
Loosely cover and leave to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours. During this time the dough will rise and bubble. You can use your dough to bake bread any time after the initial 2 hours rise.
Place the loosely covered dough in the fridge until you're ready to use it. It will deflate over time.
When you're ready to use the dough, remove it from the fridge and sprinkle the surface with plain flour. This is to stop the dough from being so sticky and will only coat the surface and not be incorporated into the dough.
Grab a handful of dough and pull it from the container. Use a serrated knife to cut the dough from the remaining dough. Quickly shape your bread (whatever shape you desire) without kneading or punching it down and place it onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. You want to touch the dough as little as possible to retain the air bubbles inside.
Let rise for 45 - 60 minutes. The bread may not rise much at all during this time but that is ok.
Preheat oven to 230C for 30 minutes. Place an empty metal pan in the bottom of your oven to heat up while the oven is preheating.
Slash the top of your bread before placing in the oven on the middle rack.
Pour 1 cup of water into the metal pan at the bottom of the oven, it will steam. Quickly close your oven door to prevent the steam escaping. The steam helps the bread rise.
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.
That's a great question!
If you're not using a loaf pan you should slash your bread to give it room to expand during cooking. The slash will let it expand in a controlled manner. If you don't slash your bread it could bake in very odd shapes when it starts expanding. Slashing is decorative and functional.
If you're using a loaf pan then you don't need to worry about slashing it because the pan will make it keep its shape.