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If using ACTIVE DRY YEAST: Activate the YEAST by combining it with WARM WATER (100°-110°F) in a 4-quart mixing bowl (or stand mixer bowl). Give a quick stir and let this rest until yeast appears foamy on the surface (about 5 min).If using RAPID RISE INSTANT YEAST: No activation needed. Simply combine yeast with WARM WATER (120°F-130°F), give a quick stir, and move on to the next step.
Add ingredients: Add SALT and 3 cups FLOUR. You'll add remaining 1/3 cup FLOUR during mixing.
HAND KNEAD OPTION: Mix the ingredients together with a wooden spoon (or any stirring utensil) to form a shaggy dough. Transfer dough to a steady surface and hand-knead until a cohesive, elastic dough forms (3-5 minutes). Sprinkle the reserved flour in small amounts as needed to build structure and prevent the dough sticking to the table or your hands during this process.STAND MIXER OPTION: Secure dough hook with the mixing bowl. Use lowest speed to mix and knead ingredients into a cohesive, smooth, elastic dough forms (3-5 min). You may need to stop the mixer and scrape ingredients into the dough if they get separated. Sprinkle in reserved flour to prevent the dough sticking to the bowl sides, as needed during mixing.
Once mixed, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it a few times to remove air bubbles. Shape into a ball, tucking the dough under itself to form a seam.
PROOF DOUGH WITH INSTANT POT1st proof: Oil the stainless insert. Place dough inside, flip to coat it, and rest it seam side down. Cover pot with any glass lid or plate, select “yogurt” button and toggle the "adjust" button to the "less" setting. Don't worry about the number setting, just allow the dough to double in size (takes 30-60 min).2nd proof: Once dough size doubles, remove it, punch it down and pull in the sides to tighten it back up, oil the insert again, and repeat proofing process (about 30 min).PROOF DOUGH WITHOUT INSTANT POT1st proofing: Place dough in a large, oiled, mixing bowl, flip to coat it, and rest seam side down. Loosely cover with draped plastic wrap or a flour-coated towel. Allow to rise in a warm environment (minimum 75°F) until doubled (60-90 min).2nd proofing: Punch dough down to deflate the air. Form again into firm ball, return to oiled mixing bowl, cover, and rise another 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450°.
Shape the dough: Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Tuck and shape dough into your preferred form, which will either be a loaf pan or free-form (round, loaf, or baguette).Note: The images in this recipe are a free-form loaf on a small baking sheet.
Place formed dough into coated loaf pan or coated baking sheet (for free-form).
Brush oil on the dough surface or spray mist some water and a light dusting of flour. (This is just a matter of preference for final presentation).
Final proofing: Score the dough 1/8” deep with a razor blade; cover loaf with a piece of plastic, wax paper, or a flour coated towel. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled (15-30 min).
Bake at 450° for 25 minutes (for a loaf) or 20 minutes (for a baguette).The loaf or baguette will be browned on the surface and should have a hollow sound on the inside when tapped with your fingers.FOR A CRISPER CRUST: Turn the oven off and leave the bread in for 5 minutes (for a crispier surface), or remove bread immediately.
Transfer bread onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool (as much as humanly possible) before slicing.