Monday, March 18, 2013

Basic Artisan Bread

I have been torturing my friends on Facebook for the last week talking about this bread.  Yes, it really is THAT easy.  Yes, it really is THAT good.

Still not sure?  Find out for yourself!

Basic Artisan Bread
Recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes   Rising Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes   Cook Time: 30 minutes

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1.  Pour the warm water in a large bowl OR 5-quart container with a lid.  The water should be a little bit warmer than body temperature, but not so warm that you get that tingly "wow that's hot!" feeling in your fingers.  You can get this temp right from your tap water.
I have my flour on stand-by

2.  Add the yeast and salt to the water; don't worry about it dissolving.
Yes, my container is "dirty" from the last batch.
I'm taking the lazy route to SOURDOUGH!!

3.  Mix in the flour but kneading is unnecessary.  Just stir it up with a spoon.  If your container has weird crevices or corners, you may need to get in there with your hands. But again, do NOT knead the dough.
Just a mass of sticky dough.

4.  Cover the container with the lid (this should NOT be an airtight container!!) and let the dough rise for 2 hours.
I cannot stress the importance of LABELING enough here.

Nice and puffy.  Now into the fridge with this beauty!

That's it!  You've just mixed up four pounds of bread dough in a few simple minutes.  Great job!!!  Take a moment to bask in how awesome you are.

Now what? 

You could move right into the baking part of this recipe, however it's best to let this dough sit 24-hours before baking.  So I would recommend putting your container in the fridge until the next day.

1. Take a pizza peel and sprinkle a little cornmeal in the middle of it (about a tablespoon).  If you don't have a pizza peel and aren't interested in buying one you could also use a rim-less or inverted cookie sheet.
Cornmeal will help the dough to slide off MUCH better than flour.

2.  Sprinkle the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour.  Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit sized) piece of dough using a serrated knife. Hold the mass in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't stick to your hands.
I just dusted the section I was pulling out but you can flour over the whole thing.

3.  Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.  Most of the dusting flour will fall off; THAT'S FINE.  This is not an exact science, you just want a smooth, round of dough with a reasonably flat bottom. This step should only take about 30 seconds.
This is also how my pizza dough looks before I flatten it.

4.  Place the dough in the middle of the cornmeal on the pizza peel and let rest/rise, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.  If it doesn't rise all that much THAT'S OK.  More rising will occur as it bakes.

5.  About 20 minutes before baking, put a pizza stone OR inverted cookie sheet on the middle rack of the oven.  Preheat to 450. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread.

6.  Lightly dust the surface of the bread dough with about a teaspoon of flour.  Make a few 1/4" deep slashes in the dough using a serrated knife in whatever pattern you choose (cross, scallop, tic-tac-toe, etc).
Why yes, I used a steak knife.  And your point is...?

The little flour dusting helps the knife cut through without sticking.

7.  With a quick forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the preheated stone. Quickly but carefully pour 1 cup of HOT water from the tap into the broiler tray and close the oven to trap the steam.  Bake for 30 minutes.
Into the hot oven with you!


I won't tell, or judge, if you lick your screen.

YOU HAVE FRESH, ARTISAN BREAD!!!!  Isn't that exciting?!?!?!  Wasn't that SO STINKING EASY??  My family has always been really into carbs so this is quickly becoming an exciting, regular addition to our dinner table.  Kieran even gets so excited he does his version of tap dancing when he sees me pull the raw dough out.  It's so cute!

Now, there a couple things I want to point out:
  • Make sure the container you use to keep the dough is NOT an air tight one.  I'd originally intended to use some of my new Tupperware for this but, after some more reading, realized that wasn't going to work.  Rob picked up a 5-pack of regular old shoe storage containers for $5.
  • Get a roll of masking tape and LABEL.  Especially if you think you might have more than one bin of dough sitting in your fridge (I have two currently; I'll tell you more about the second batch later).  I label the end of the bin with what kind of dough it is AND I put the "Use By" date on top.  This dough will last up to 14 days.   
    A little labeling goes a long way.
  •  Don't think you can go through 4 pounds of dough in 14 days?  Then portion it out into 1-lb pieces and FREEZE IT.
  • As long as your dough does not contain any eggs, washing it in between batches isn't necessary.  Over time the bits of dough from previous batches will sour and you will end up with your very own sourdough bread starter!
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