Love the taste of fresh, home baked bread but fear that you don’t have the time, or that it’s too difficult a craft to learn? Not anymore! This simple recipe taken from the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois will help you create beautiful loaves of artisan bread.
Show them off to friends and family. Pretend you’re fancy. I won’t tell.
This dough is stored in the fridge for up to two weeks, but I doubt it will last that long. It’s so simple to whip together so you can bake a fresh loaf daily and quickly mix up another batch for a never ending supply. I hear the longer you keep it in the fridge, the more it develops a sourdough taste. I like to leave it for at least 12 hours in the fridge before baking my first batch as the chilled dough is easier to work with.
What you will need to yield four 1lb loaves
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (or 2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (or any coarse salt)
6 1/2 cups unsifted unbleached all purpose flour
Preparing the dough for storage:
Warm the water slightly, just warmer than body temp. Warm water will rise the dough more quickly, about 2 hours as opposed to 3-4 hours with cool water.
Add the yeast to the water in a 5 quart bowl or lidded container (not airtight). Don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve, just sprinkle it in.
In another bowl, mix the flour and salt. Be sure to accurately measure your ingredients. Baking needs exact ratios, no guess work here.
Add the water/yeast and flour/salt together in a heavy duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hooks. You can also mix the dough by hand using a wooden spoon. Mix until everything is uniformly moist without any dry patches. The dough should be wet, loose, and sticky. Don’t knead.
Allow to rise. I covered the mixing bowl with a thin flour sack towel and left in a warm place in my kitchen. Leave for 2 hours, or until the top begins to flatten. Rising up to 5 hours will not harm it.
You can now use a portion of this dough for baking, but I prefer to let it refrigerate over night. Place it in a plastic lidded container (not airtight).
On baking day:
Prepare whatever you will be using for baking; loaf tin, cloche, tray, etc.
I like to shape my dough into a boule, so a tray or cloche works best for this. Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull about a grapefruit sized portion of dough out (about 1lb). Tear off from the sides. The dough will have risen and we don’t want to expel the gas in the center of the portion you will be working with today.
Add a little flour as needed as it might be sticky. The top of the dough will look dome-like, so gently flip over and begin stretching the bottom on all four sides. The bottom will look like a collection of bunched ends, but all will be well when baking. This step should take no more than 30-60 seconds. We don’t want to release too much gas.
Rest the loaf and let it rise for about 40 minutes. The rest of the dough should return to the fridge. It may not rise much this time around. That’s ok.
20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450. Place an empty pan or broiler tray at the bottom of the oven.
Dust and slash. Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour. Slash a quarter inch deep cross, diagonal lines, or pound sign on top using a serrated knife.
After a 20 minute preheat, you’re ready to bake. The oven will not be fully heated; that’s ok. Put your loaf in the oven and pour 1 cup of hot water from the tap into the empty tray on bottom to create steam. Close the oven immediately.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned and firm.
Be sure to use up the rest of the dough within 14 days. This bread is great with a smear of homemade butter! Be sure to check out Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day for sweet and savory variations, what to do with stale bread, and many more tips!