Once upon a time, there was a little blogger who loved freshly baked bread. She knew that white flour was, according to all things medical research, not the best thing in the world for her nutrition. But, like the steadfast food-lover that she was, she also knew that a nutritionist would have to pry a baguette from her cold, dead hands before she’d give it up entirely.
If you’re like me (and not gluten-free — for those who are, check out my friend Katie’s fabulous blog about cooking in a gluten-free and allergy-friendly kitchen, Katie’s Kitchen), even if you’re generally a healthy person, it’s hard to totally tear yourself away from doughy, delicious loaves of bread. Particularly if they’re of the crackly-crusted, fresh-from-the-oven, French-ish variety, amirite? 🙂
But like most of our vices, however small, buying fresh bread gets expensive. Which is why, in this era of Do It Yourself and homecooked goodness, I’m sharing one of my favorite bread recipes with you. Thanks to the duo behind Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, with a little cookery and patience (and no kneading. NO KNEADING!), you, too, can be a one-woman Panera. Win!
The method behind Artisan Bread in Five is a moisture-heavy bread dough that can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Each standard batch of dough makes four 1-pound loaves, and is most easily prepared as a boule loaf (French for “ball,” a boule is a small, round loaf that you’ve likely seen before in bread shops or at places like Panera).
The standard set of steps, complete with photo-illustrations, is here on the Artisan Bread in Five blog. I’ll also share a simplified version of the directions, complete with the dough recipe, below. Happy eating!
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes: Basic Dough
- 3 cups of warm water (warm to the touch, but not hot)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast (equivalent to 2 packets)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (or 1 scant tablespoon table salt)
- 6 1/2 cups white flour (Variation: 3 cups white flour, 3 1/2 cups wheat flour)
Here’s what you do:
- In a large mixing bowl, combine water, yeast and salt by stirring gently.
- Add flour 1 cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until combined. If you’d like to use a standing mixer, use your dough hook to gently mix the dough. You may still need to stir the final cup of flour into the dough mixture by hand.
- When dough is mixed, allow it to rest and rise (either covered with plastic wrap and a dishtowel, or in a plastic container with the top slightly open for gases to escape) for 2+ hours. After the dough has risen, it is technically ready to use. However, you may want to allow it to chill in the refrigerator overnight, as it’s easier to cut off 1-lb pieces when the dough is cold. The dough can be used for up to two weeks — the longer the dough rests, the more pronounced its sourdough flavor becomes. Yum!
- On Baking Day, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Using a serrated knive, cut off a 1-lb ball of dough. Then, gluten-cloak the dough:
- Place the dough on a pizza peel or wooden cutting board that you’ve heavily dusted with cornmeal or white flour. Allow to rest for 45 minutes, or up to 2 hours. The longer the dough rests at this stage, the larger its “air holes” when it bakes. Note: the dough may not expand much at this point; that’s just fine!
- Preheat a baking stone for 20 minutes at 475ºF (or higher, if your oven can reach 500ºF or 550ºF). Then, slide the dough onto the hot baking stone. You may need to shake the pizza peel / cutting board a bit in order for this to happen.
- Immediately add a baking pan or broiler pan filled with 1-2 cups hot water to the oven: This will create the steam needed for your loaf’s crackling crust. Shut the oven door immediately, and do not open to check — you’ll release steam and your bread won’t rise properly.
- Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes. Allow the bread to cool after removing it from the oven; otherwise, the inside may be gummy and the loaf won’t slice as easily.
Are you guys fans of baking fresh bread? What techniques do you use? Favorite recipes? Share them here!