If you have never made a homemade loaf of bread before, this is a great recipe to try for your first time. It contains only a handful of ingredients and it's easy to put together. If you want to have an authentic pioneer type experience, you can do all the kneading by hand. If you prefer techno over retro, you can use a bread machine and a mixer with a dough hook attachment to do all the kneading for you.
You can make this bread days or weeks ahead of time and freeze it. Just slice the bread after the loaf has cooled completely and put it in a freezer safe bag or container. On Thanksgiving Day, take the sliced loaf straight from the freezer, wrap in aluminum foil, and heat for about 15 to 20 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.
Portuguese Country Bread
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
3 1/2 c of unbleached flour
1/4 tsp. of salt
1 package of active yeast (about 2 tsp)
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
Slowly add 1 c plus 3 T of warm water
Stir to make a firm dough.
Form a ball.
Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.This will take about 15 minutes if you do it by hand. But you don't have to do it by hand. You can use a bread machine set to the dough cycle for this first kneading step. Just add the above ingredients according to your bread machine directions and wait for the dough cycle to finish.
Once the first kneading is complete:
Brush olive oil all over the inside of a large mixing bowl.
Gather up the dough and form into a ball.
Put the ball in the mixing bowl and turn until the dough ball is completely covered in oil.
Cover the bowl and set aside in a warm, draft free space and let it rise until it doubles in size.This will take about an hour.
Punch down the dough.
On a floured surface, knead again until the dough is smooth and elastic.This will only take about five minutes. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, you can use it for this step.
Shape the dough ball into a free form long loaf.
Brush a cookie sheet with 1 to 2 T of olive oil until it is lightly coated.
Place the dough loaf on the cookie sheet.
Leave the dough loaf uncovered on the cookie sheet until it doubles in size again. This will take about an hour.
Bake the bread for 15 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Bake the bread an additional 15 to 20 minutes until it is well browned on top and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
Cool the bread on a wire rack before slicing.