This is a relatively quick bread to make – only taking about 3 hours total. It makes a massive loaf so you can divide the dough in half and make 2 smaller loaves if desired. When making the bread, you’ll find you need to add different amounts of flour depending on when you make this bread and the moisture level in the air. On a dry winter day, I needed 5 1/2 cups of flour to get to the right consistency.
Adding ice cubes just prior to baking helps create steam in the oven which gives a nice crust. Make sure that you only use a metal pan in the oven to hold the ice cubes. If you use a glass pan, it WILL shatter; the temperature change is too much for the glass to handle from the hot oven to the cold ice cubes.
2 cups lukewarm water
1 package active dry yeast
5-6 cups flour
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
Combine the yeast and 1/2 cup of the lukewarm water in a small bowl. Set aside until foamy.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 5 cups flour, sugar, and salt and mix briefly. Add the yeast mixture, remaining water, and olive oil. Mix on the lowest speed using a dough hook until flour is mostly incorporated. Increase speed to next level – adding flour as needed until dough is pulling away from the sides; knead for 8 minutes.
Turn dough onto floured surface and knead approximately 1 minute to smooth dough and form into a ball. Place into a lightly greased bowl and spray with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until doubled in size, roughly 1 1/2 hours.
After dough has risen, punch down and form into a long oval loaf. Place on parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with flour, then cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
While loaf is rising, place a large baking stone in the oven and preheat to 425F. Five minutes before placing the dough in the oven, place a metal pan on the bottom rack with 5 ice cubes.
After dough has risen, use a very sharp knife to slash the dough lengthwise 1/4″ deep. Transfer the parchment paper and dough onto the baking stone using a pizza peal. Bake for 30-45 minutes until a hollow thud is heard when you tap on the bottom of the bread.
Cool on a rack before slicing.