Free Form Artisan Bread

Crusty outside with a soft and chewy center

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.

Baking Day:

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!


14 responses to “Free Form Artisan Bread

  1. Sheri! This looks fantastic! I can’t wait to try it. What is a pizza peel and did you pour boiling water into the pan or hot tap water or does it matter?

  2. Maeats, how funny! I had to google what a pizza peel is. It’s the wooden board with a handle that pizza shops use to put their pizzas on, some are metal….Just use your cutting board or a flat pan. The water really does need to be boiling before you pour into the pre-heated pan…it immediately creates a steam bath for the bread…it’s what makes the crust so yummy!

  3. Your bread is beautiful! Great job! 🙂

  4. Like you, I am (you were?) totally intimidated by bread. My husband is the baker in the family, but we tend to focus more on cooking, frankly. I’m impressed with your immediate success. Good on you!

  5. Frazzled, to tell you the truth, I am impressed too! I really didn’t think I could bake or would enjoy it, but this has opened a whole new world for me! I do not forsee a future of decorating cakes, but making bread for our loved homemade soups…OH YEAH!! Also, the second loaf made for a great take away gift for my guest..As always, Happy Cookin!

  6. Pingback: Split Pea Soup with Ham – The way Grandma Would Make it if she had access to Ma’s Garden | Meals by Sheri

  7. Made the bread last night. It was outstanding and surprisingly easy! I used half whole wheat flour and it turned out really well. Would you mind if I reposted to my blog?

  8. Maeats, I would be flattered if you reposted this recipe! I got it from a friend who got it from a friend…and so on. Seem’s the best recipes are found this way. So glad it turned out for you, love the idea of adding whole wheat flour, might have to borrow your idea! Happy Cookin!

  9. My Italian Smörgåsbord (Aka Barbara)

    it’s beautiful bread that you made Sheri. isn’t that wonderful to make this miracle happen in your home and eat it?

  10. I love making my own bread. I totally agree about the price’s insane! But when you make your own, there is also the benefit of the aroma in the house as it’s baking.. You should try my Rosemary No -Knead Peasant Bread. Well, i got it from a friend, but it is another recipe that kicks butt!

  11. MA Eats, sooo sorry that I didn’t get your comment earlier – to all my friends, I consider it an honnor if you have tried a recipe and want to share! Barbara, welcome! You are so right about it being a little miracle! Kim, I have made froccia with rosemary, but now I’ll have to check out your friends recipe.

  12. I am going to attempt this one, right now. 🙂
    I can let it sit overnight and i have an housr or so to kill while it rises. 🙂

    • Kim, I made into little personal loaves (about the size of your palm) tonight, they turned out perfect! Just watched as I knew the cooking time would be a bit shorter…I always slit and then sprinkle with cornmeal on top for that Artisan feel…such a versital recipe!

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