This is the homemade bread recipe for people (like me) who don’t just *love* bread baking. It is easy. It exceeds my expectations for shape, texture, and flavor. The dusky, dense loaves keep beautifully for several days and makes toast that is simply divine. I’ve come to think of it as my “gateway bread” because I, never a bread baker, now make bread once a week, thanks to this recipe. Yup. Even though I live in France, land of excellent, inexpensive ultra-fresh breads.

I happened upon the recipe in Paula Wolfert’s book Couscous and Other Recipes from Morocco while planning a Moroccan-themed dinner for some English friends. While the promise of an absorbent bread that was just right for dipping in saucy stews and tagines was alluring, what really grabbed me about the recipe was this phrase: “Because it is only left to rise once…”

I’ve made the recipe with 100% all-purpose flour, half whole-wheat, half all-purpose flour, and as written below. The recipe is extremely forgiving in all ingredient circumstances and should you let it rise 3 to 4 hours instead of two because you got busy doing something else, well, that seems to be OK too. Oh, and if 2 loaves is too much, you can freeze half the dough, then thaw it and make the second loaf later on.

3 ½ cups (450 g.) all-purpose flour
1 cup (120 g.) whole-wheat flour
2 tsp. (10 g.) kosher salt or sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 .25-oz pkg. active dry yeast (make sure it’s fresh because you’re not proofing it first)
½ cup (125 ml.) lukewarm milk, buttermilk, or vegetable milk
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups (300 – 350 ml.) lukewarm water
Olive oil, for rubbing
Sesame seeds for garnish, optional

Combine the flours, salt, sugar, and yeast in a mixing bowl or the bowl of a food processor. Add the milk and enough water to make a stiff dough. Knead 5 to 6 minutes with the hook attachment of a stand mixer, 2 to 3 minutes in a food processor, or about 10 minutes by hand until the dough is smooth and no longer sticks to your hands.

Divide the dough into two balls. Rub each ball with olive oil, then flatten into disks or rectangles on a flour-dusted baking sheet. Cover the dough with a clean, damp, kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Brush the loaves with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired, or just place in the oven and bake 12 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300˚F, and bake 30 to 35 minutes more, or until browned and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool completely before serving. Makes 2 medium loaves