I love bread and so does my family. We especially love artisan bread with its crispy crust and wonderful texture. It’s great with dinner, simply dipped in olive oil or brushed with garlic butter and grilled, what’s not to love?! The problem is…it’s expensive to buy and I’m not much of a bread baker. I’ve always found baking bread to be a little intimidating. The yeast, the kneading, the rising….it scared me a little bit.
But then, a couple of years ago, my in-laws gave me the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” for Christmas and it completely changed my outlook on making homemade bread. To begin with, I was a little skeptical. I mean, really? Artisan bread with almost no effort? But, I had the book, so why not give it a try?
The book offers recipes for all kinds of breads, but it starts out with a basic recipe for a boule (which is a round crusty loaf). The technique is very simple, you put warm water in a large 5 qt container with a lid ( I use a large plastic one), add yeast and salt, then mix in the flour, either by hand or with a stand mixer or large capacity food processor. Once it’s all combined, you let it sit on the counter for at least 2 hours and up to 5 hours. Then you refrigerate the dough. That’s it! No letting the yeast bloom, no kneading, no multiple rises, super easy. The recipe makes four loaves of bread and can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks and actually the longer it sits in the refrigerator, the better it gets. When you’re ready to bake bread, you cut a grapefruit size piece of dough off, shape it into a round loaf and let it rest for 4o minutes. Then it goes into the oven for 30 minutes. The secret for the really crispy crust is to put a cup of hot water in a broiler pan under the bread. The bread turns out perfectly every time, it looks like it came straight from the bakery!
I encourage you to try this method, it’s SO easy. There are a few pieces of equipment you should have to make sure your bread turns out flawlessly. As I already mentioned you need a large lidded 5 quart container (an ice cream bucket will work), and then you need a pizza stone and a pizza peel. It’s a good investment, though, because you will save a lot of money by making your own bread.
Homemade Artisan Bread
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tbsp (2 packets) yeast
- 1 1/2 tbsp course salt
- 6 1/2 cups unsifted, all-purpose white flour, measured by scooping with measuring cup and leveling off with a knife
- cornmeal for pizza peel
Pour water into 5 quart storage container, mixer bowl, or food processor. Add yeast and salt. It doesn’t have to all dissolve. Add flour all at once. Then either mix with a wooden spoon, or with the mixer or food processor, until everthing is well combined and mixture is uniform (this only takes a few minutes). The dough will be wet and sticky.
If you mixed it in something other than your storage container, place it in the storage container. Cover the container (but not so that it’s covered airtight). Let the dough rise for about 2 hours, but you can let it rise for up to 5 hours without effecting the results.
At this point the dough is ready to make into bread, but it will be easier to work with if you refrigerate it for at least three hours. Dough can remain refrigerated for up to two weeks.
To make a loaf of bread, sprinkle a pizza peel liberally with corn meal. Then dust the top of the dough with flour and pull a grapefruit size (1 lb) piece of dough from the container (you’ll probably have to cut it with a serrated knife). Sprinkle some flour onto the piece of dough and then with your hands, quickly stretch the dough around and under to form a ball that’s flat on the bottom. place the dough on the pizza peel and allow to rest for 40 minutes.
20 minutes before you bake the bread, preheat the oven to 450 degrees with the pizza stone on the middle rack and an empty broiler pan below it.
Before putting bread into the oven, dust the top with flour and make three slashes across the top with a serrated knife.
Put the bread into the oven on the pizza stone, by giving the pizza peel a good shake to release the loaf. Then pour a cup of hot water into the broiler pan. Do not open the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing.
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