3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon yeast
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 tsp sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
cornmeal for dusting
2 tsp olive oil
about 1/2 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp sea salt
cracked pepper grinder
1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and olive oil in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Stir in the salt, sugar, and flour and knead until it forms a nice smooth dough (which should take less than 5 minutes, even when doing it by hand instead of in a mixer). Let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
2. Dust a pizza peel or wooden cutting board with cornmeal (1 tablespoon perhaps). Shape the risen dough into a ball and flatten it out with your hands, stretching it or rolling it into a nice 8-10 inch in diameter disc. It should only be about 1/2 inch thick. Lay it out on the prepared cornmeal-dusted board.
3. Rub the surface of the dough with 2 tsp olive oil. Use your fingers to poke at the dough creating lots of little divots over the whole disc. Sprinkle rosemary, sea salt, and cracked pepper over the whole thing (or whatever flavor combination you desire).
4. Bake on a pizza stone at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Place a shallow pan filled with water in the oven with the bread to create a steam oven (see cooking lesson below).
The key to making great bakery-style bread at home is all in the method. Bakeries use steam ovens to get that wonderful chewy crust. You can create your own steam oven by placing a shallow pan of water in the oven with your bread. The water will evaporate in the heat, filling your oven with steam.
Using a baking stone or pizza stone is vital to creating both the perfect crust and the perfect crumb. Bakeries use fancy ovens of the masonry variety. See, the oven in your house cooks using radiated (the flame or the electrical elements) and convected heat (the air moving around the oven. A convection oven has fans to assist in the circulation of the air). A masonry oven is able to use conduction on top of convection and radiated heat. Masonry ovens utilize stone, just as their name suggests. Stone retain heat really well. When you put a loaf of bread directly on a hot stone, the stone transfers its heat to the bread through conduction. So when you use a pizza/baking stone, you are literally adding a third heating method into your oven. Isn't that awesome? There's your science lesson for the day!