This recipe makes three modest loaves of chewy, tender bread. It’s also probably the easiest yeasted dough you'll ever make: no starter, no sugar, barely any waiting around. I’d like to say I didn’t eat all three loaves within two days, but I cannot tell a lie! Using a kitchen scale will make your life much easier, as this recipe involves metric measurements.
Weigh flour, mix in salt, and set aside. Pour dry yeast into a warm ceramic cup. Heat the water in a pan until it is very warm, but not hot. Pour approximately 4 ounces of water into the cup with yeast and stir with a fork until the yeast is completely dissolved.
Pour yeast-water mixture and all but 1/2 cup water into a very large mixing bowl. Add flour to the bowl gradually, continuously mixing with a wooden spoon until all flour is absorbed, adding the remaining water as needed. The dough should have a smooth texture and form a ball.
Using a paper towel, coat the inside of a large bowl with olive oil or vegetable shortening and add the dough. Cover the bowl with a wet dish towel and place in a warm spot in the kitchen. If your kitchen is drafty and cold, allow dough to rise in the covered bowl in a warm oven (approximately 150° F) with the door open. Let rise for 30 minutes.
Cover cutting board with a generous amount of flour to prevent dough from sticking. Turn dough out onto a cutting board. Flour hands and knead with the heels of your hands. When dough has a consistent texture and forms a ball, divide into 3 pieces. Form dough into rounds or oblong shapes. Place on a cookie sheet or baking stone. Allow to rise in a warm place for 10 to 15 minutes. While dough is rising, preheat oven to 375° F (190° C).
Cut slits in the tops of the loaves just before baking. When oven is hot, place bread on center rack and bake for 10 minutes. Remove and brush with beaten egg white. Return to oven and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes. Bread should turn a light golden color.
Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes. When cool enough to touch, slice with a bread knife and serve.
Rebecca Firkser is the assigning editor at Food52. She used to wear many hats in the food media world: food writer, editor, assistant food stylist, recipe tester (sometimes in the F52 test kitchen!), recipe developer. Her writing has appeared in TASTE, The Strategist, Eater, and Bon Appetit's Healthyish and Basically. She contributed recipes and words to the book "Breakfast: The Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day." Once upon a time, she studied theatre design and art history at Smith College, so if you need a last-minute avocado costume or want to talk about Wayne Thiebaud's cakes, she's your girl. You can follow her on Instagram @rebeccafirkser.