Bread at its most basic (and many say its best) is made from nothing more than water, yeast, and good, high-gluten flour—simple ingredients combined with alchemical results. We asked Felice Ramella, the head baker at New York City's Tri-Bakery—and also a dedicated breadmaker in her own kitchen—her secret for delicious home-baked loaves.
•At home, Ramella uses packaged active dry yeast. If its expiration date has not yet arrived, she says, there is no need to proof the yeast. She simply dissolves it in lukewarm water before adding it to the flour.
•She likes to let dough rise overnight in the refrigerator; a cold first rise enhances its flavor. After the dough has risen a second time, Ramella refrigerates it for 15 minutes before baking, to create a crisp, textured crust.
•Home bakers often add too much flour to dough, says Ramella. Control the texture of your dough with water, not with flour. Place as little flour as possible on the kneading surface and use a pastry scraper as you knead the dough to pick up any bits that may adhere. Dough should remain slightly sticky when fully kneaded—a little harder to work with but well worth it.