Making bread is 10 per cent recipe and 90 per cent technique. With limitless shapes, flavours, textures and tastes, you will never get bored experimenting with bread baking. Though ingredients may vary, most bread tastes "authentic" and has a solid and crisp base when baked on a flat stone, also known as pizza or baking stone.
Purchase a substantial baking stone that is at least 3/4 inch thick. If it is too thin, it will not retain much heat. Alternately, you can make one using unglazed quarry tiles or bricks.
Place the baking stone in the oven and turn the temperature to 287 degrees C at least an hour before putting the bread inside, so that the stone is well heated. If the oven is not hot enough, the bread would lose its structure and not brown properly.
Blend all dry bread ingredients in a large bowl using a wooden spoon.
Pour the liquid ingredients and continue stirring with the wooden spoon until the dough is formed.
Knead the dough with the heel of your hand until it has a smooth and elastic finish. The dough should spring back when poked.
Leave the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover it with a moist cloth or cling film. Put the bowl aside at room temperature. Allow the dough to rise until it has doubled. Rising time depends on the composition and texture of the dough, and the temperature of the room.
Punch the dough down and knead it again. Cover again and allow it to rise for a second time.
Shape the dough into the desired shape and leave it at room temperature for a few minutes before putting it in the oven.
Sprinkle a little flour on the bread loaf for a rustic look. In addition to this, sprinkle a little cornmeal on the stone so that the bread does not stick.
Reduce the oven temperature 232 degrees C. To check if the stone is ready for baking, drop some water on the stone. If it dances, it is ready.
Place the bread dough on the stone using a long-handled spatula. Mist the sides of the oven with water. Allow the dough to bake according to the recipe.
Handle with care and always wear gloves while handling hot breads. Never immerse a hot baking stone in water; let the stone cool in the oven before removing or cleaning.