Having never made fresh bread unless it was from a frozen loaf from the grocery store or a boxed mix in my bread machine, I have to admit, I was intimidated. Motivated by a good friend Nancy who encouraged me to try this recipe as she claimed it was easy enough. The picture of her finished bread looked so amazing that I was determined to give it a whirl.
A quick look at the ingredients left me in disbelief, so few, could this really be as good as it looks? I trust my friend as she definitely knows her way around the kitchen. “B” day arrived, as I now call my baking day. I reread the recipe and even consult my friend via Facebook to clarify the directions and perhaps a bit of encouragement. I suddenly realize I am scared of a little yeast and water. See, I really don’t bake, I cook. Cooking meals and baking are two different worlds as I see it. I happened to be out of my comfort zone here. I love Artisan Bread from my local bakery so much and have paid almost $6.00 for a loaf to go with my homemade soups, so the idea of being able to make my own fresh at home, for a fraction of the cost pushes me forward.
Later in the evening, after following all of the directions, I have 2 loaves of amazing bread to go with the Spilt Pea Soup and Ham I made the day before. I couldn’t believe I did it! the recipe is really simple after doing it once (even for me) The real beauty of this recipe is that it makes about 4 – 1lb loaves and the dough stays good in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. It gets better as it hangs out there! Genius! I will never buy from the bakery again as I now have this wonderful recipe and I hope you try it too!
Here is the recipe I received from my friend Nancy who got it from a friend…..A very special Thank You for sharing your recipe and once again, teaching me!
For the dough:
3 cups lukewarm water
1.5 Tablespoons granulated yeast
1.5 Tablespoons kosher or other course salt
6.5 cups white all-purpose flour
Mix water, yeast and salt in a large container no smaller than 5 quarts. It should have a lid but not an airtight lid. I used a large bowl and loosely covered with plastic wrap.
Measure your flour using a spoon to scoop and sweep method so that the flour is not compacted.
Add the flour all at once but do not knead. Just stir so that there aren’t any pockets of flour. The dough will be moist…cover and leave at room temperature or until it has doubled.
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
The dough may now be used or left in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The longer it sits in the fridge the more the texture and flavour improves. This quantity of dough makes 4 good size loaves. Or make smaller loaves adjusting cooking time.
Artisan Bread is crusty and usually free form (no pans). Sprinkle the surface of the dough with a little flour and pull up and with a serrated knife, cut off 1 ball the size of a grapefruit. This should weigh about 1 pound. Lightly dust the ball with flour so it won’t stick to the work surface. Gently stretch the dough out and under so that you have a smooth ball with a collection of “edges” at the bottom. Sprinkle a pizza peel with cornmeal and place the dough on the peel. I do not have a pizza peel so just used my large cutting board. Allow to rest for 40 minutes at room temperature. After 20 minutes, place a baking stone on rack in oven ( I simply used my baking sheet) and on any rack which will not interfere with the baking process, place an empty broiler pan (I don’t have a broiler pan so used an 8×13 cake pan and placed on the very bottom rack). Preheat the oven to 450F Dust the top of the loaf with flour (or cornmeal if desired) and with a serrated knife slash the top of the loaf. Quickly slide dough onto hot baking stone (or baking sheet). Also quickly pour 1-2cups of water (I definitely used 2 cups) into the heated broiling pan. This produces steam. Quickly close the oven door. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch. Cool on a cooling rack.
This recipe makes a perfectly crusty and chewy bread! Now that I’ve made this recipe, I am going to experiment with flavoring the bread with spinach, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes….you get the picture. I encourage you to try this recipe and would love to hear your feedback! Happy Cookin!