Like all the best apocalypse novel heroes, this bread has a hard-crusty exterior and a delightfully soft and chewy interior.
This recipe produces a huge loaf, or two smaller loaves (if separated before baking).
2 cups lukewarm water (~100°F)
1 package active dry yeast
5 to 5¾ cups bread flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2½ teaspoons salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1. Stir the yeast into ½ cup of the warm water. Let proof as you measure out the dry ingredients.
2. Combine 5 cups flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the yeast mixture, remaining water and olive oil. Using a dough hook attachment, mix on lowest speed of electric mixer (stir setting on a KitchenAid) until a dough starts to form, adding more flour as needed. Knead on low speed (2 on a KitchenAid) for 7 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and need by hand for 1 to 2 minutes, or until a smooth, firm, elastic dough is formed.
3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and spray the dough with a thin coating of cooking spray. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to proof in a warm, draft-free place for 1½ hours or until doubled in size.
4. Remove the plastic wrap, punch down and flatten the rounded dough with the heel of your hand. Roll the dough up tightly, sealing the seam well after each roll.
5. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
6. Place the dough on a baker's peel heavily dusted with flour, or alternately on an inverted baking sheet. Allow the dough to proof, loosely covered with a floured canvas cloth, for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
7. Brush the dough with the egg white. This is the time to get creative. You can slice off pieces of dough to add features alternatively Use a razor blade or sharp knife, and slash the dough to form the features of your Tankbread. Add a face, or bio-hazard sign into the top of each loaf.
8. Spray the dough generously with water from a water bottle and place in the oven on the baking stone. Alternatively, place an ovenproof dish with 2 cups of water in it, in the bottom of the oven. Immediately close the oven and bake for 3 minutes. If you used the spray bottle option - Open the oven door and spray the dough again with the water bottle. Close the oven door and bake for an additional 3 minutes before spraying the dough for a third time (the spraying of the dough will ensure a crisp golden brown crust).
9. Bake the dough for a total of 45 minutes, or until a hollow thud is heard when tapping the bottom of the bread. Allow the bread to cool before slicing.