Simple Artisan Bread

Posted on 10 January 2011

Adapted from the “Boule” master recipe at Mother Earth News

I’m not a huge baker but I love making bread and am always on the lookout for new recipes to try. I’ve tried various no-knead recipes but, so far, this one has turned out the best. Due to the relative ease of preparation — and the fact that I can keep the dough in the fridge and make multiple loaves out of it — this recipe has become our standard “house” recipe. I’ve made this recipe a couple times now and re-use a small bit of each previous batch in the subsequent ones hoping to (eventually) wind-up with a bit of sourdough flavor. Since discovering this recipe, we’ve started having fresh, homemade bread with most of our meals.

Artisan Bread
3 cups lukewarm water
1 ½ tbsp granulated yeast*
½ tbsp coarse kosher or sea salt
6 ½ cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
  1. Add yeast and salt to water in a large bowl or resealable, lidded container (do not use an airtight container!). Do not worry about getting yeast to totally dissolve.

    *NOTE: I mix the saved dough from previous batches of bread in with the water, yeast, and salt, cutting back to 1 tbsp yeast.

  2. Add flour to water/yeast mixture and stir together. If mixing becomes too difficult, mix with hands but do not knead! Will yield a wet dough which conforms to container.

  3. Cover container loosely and let bread rise for (at least) 2 hours at room temperature. After bread has risen, refrigerate dough for (at least) 3 hours.

  4. After dough has been refrigerated, sprinkle pizza peel or cutting board liberally with cornmeal (to prevent loaf from sticking).

  5. Remove dough from refrigerator and sprinkle flour liberally over surface. Cut off about a 1-pound (or grapefruit-sized) piece of dough.

  6. Gently stretch and knead dough, adding flour as-needed to keep it from sticking to your hands. Form dough into rough ball.

  7. Pre-heat oven to 450°, placing baking stone on middle rack and a small, shallow pan (for water) on another rack. Leave enough room between racks for bread to rise.

  8. Place ball of dough on pizza peel/cutting board and let rest (uncovered) for 40 minutes.

  9. Dust top of loaf with flour and slash ¼ inch deep cross or scallop pattern into top of loaf.

  10. Slide loaf off pizza peel/cutting board onto baking stone and then quickly pour about ¾ cup hot water into shallow pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

  11. Remove bread from oven and let rest on wire rack for at least 20 minutes.

  12. Remaining dough can remain refrigerated for up to 2 weeks, cutting off loaves and baking as-needed. Dough can also be frozen in 1 pound portions and defrosted overnight prior to baking day.

UPDATE: I’m on the sixth or seventh generation of this bread. As I approach the end of each batch of dough, I pull off about a golf-ball sized piece and put it into a ramekin containing my “mother”. This is actually a yeast, dough, and water slurry that I retain in the refrigerator until 48 hours before I want to start the next loaf. I’ve been culturing the yeast and, besides the granulated yeast I’d begun with (in this case Fleischmann’s), I’ve added the slurry from the end of a couple bottles of geuze (Boon Oude Geuze and Oude Gueuze Vieille) to help quicken the souring process.

Now, I no longer use plain granulated yeast when making my batches of dough; I just add a couple tablespoons of the “mother” yeast slurry and follow the same steps as before. The younger the dough, the more minimal the sourdough flavor but, as the dough ages in the refrigerator, it takes on a wonderful flavor!

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