Artisan Bread Baker

Have you ever wondered exactly what made Artisan bread so special?  I mean, with a name like Artisan, you know it’s a seriously special bread.  Have you spent hours (or maybe a few seconds even?) pondering what the special ingredient or process was to this fantastic, crunch-supreme bread?

I definitely have not.

In fact, I never gave a second thought to the bread I put in my  mouth (as long as it met a few of my pre-determined ingredient qualifications).  So when I started making bread at home, I began to realize that not all breads were created alike.  It is not easy to make bread from scratch.  Would you believe that plain old sandwich bread is not easy to make?  Like, really not easy.  That special ratio of softness, but not too much softness or you can’t slice it…hard to achieve.  I’ll be honest with you, I don’t make sandwich bread anymore.  If we want sandwich bread we go and buy a loaf.  With my qualifications, this usually means we’re spending $5 (at best) on a loaf of bread that my hungry husband can down in one sitting.  Instead I just make hefty baguette loafs – much easier.

But nothing can top the simpleness of homemade Artisan bread.

Maybe you’ve heard of a neat little book- Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

This book, or more specifically, the basic recipe that built the book, has changed my bread baking skills – forever.  Never again will I slave over the counter, kneading and rolling, and sweating.  That’s because, when they say FIVE minutes, they really mean FIVE minutes.  Alright, I might have cut this down to 2.5 minutes, but that wouldn’t have made a very good book title, now would it?

I haven’t bought the book yet.  Nope, I’m holding out for the day I can justify spending $30 on a cookbook when I already have the basic recipe.  Of course, there are many recipes in the book, so many that I have sat in Barnes and Noble salivating over them for hours.  This book, will be mine.

Anyways.

You can also make this bread, without buying the book – although I would never suggest that, as I still want to buy the book.  Point is, the recipe is all over the interwebz, so I’ll share it with you.

I pulled it from here. The recipe is simple, and the process is simple, so don’t get bogged down by the way too type-heavy script on that site.  I’ll break it down for you right here, right now.

3 cups water – 100degreesF

1 1/2 tbsp yeast

1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt (I suggest using 1 tbsp as my first batch was a little salt heavy)

6 1/2 cups AP flour

That is it.  But the simplistic recipe is not the secret – here my friends, is the secret…

In a lidded bowl (not airtight) add the water, yeast and salt.  Mix, don’t worry about dissolving everything.  Add flour.  Mix until fully saturated.  You ready for the big deal???

Cover and sit on the counter for 2-5 hours.  Don’t knead, don’t touch, don’t peak.  Well, after 2 hours peak.  If the dough has risen (which it WILL have) and flattened at the top, it’s done.  If not, let it sit until it flattens.  Then all you need to do is sit the covered bowl in the fridge.  Leave it there overnight before making your first boule.  Folks, you have just made the easiest bread dough ever.

Now, we can go over the baking process.

This is a wet, sticky dough.  You’re refrigerated dough will look pretty gross, maybe like mine…

In order to make a small sized boule you’ll need about a grapefruit sized ball of dough.  Dust your hands with flour, arm yourself with a knife (or kitchen scissors) and dig the other hand in.  Pull up and snip off the amount of dough you need.  Recover the rest and refrigerate (up to 14 days) using as needed.

Now, I skip some of the previous mentioned websites instructions.  My reasoning is, I don’t have a pizza peel to prepare the boule on.  So this is what I do…

Dust flour on a baking sheet.  Taking your wet dough, pull and tuck the edges of the dough until you have a nice soft ball.  This will only take a moment.  Then, blop it down on the baking sheet and rest for about 40 minutes.  It will rise a little bit more here.

About 20 minutes into the rest, preheat your oven to 450degrees.  Place a shallow pan on a low rack (under the one you’ll be baking the bread on)…wait for preheating to finish.

When40 minutes is up, you’re ready to bake.

Dust the boule with flour and make a fancy slash on the top with a serrated knife.  You know you’ve seen those designs in the bakery before – go with your gut…are you a tic-tac-toe kinda baker?  Or maybe a single slash?  A cross?  This is pretty much the most creative moment of this bread baking, so go with it.

Now stick the baking sheet in the oven.  Before closing the door, pour 1 cup of water into that other pan you placed in there earlier.  Shut quickly to trap the steam.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes.  You’ll know it’s done when the outside is nice and brown.

I like to take mine out a little early to cut myself a special edge slice.  I like it hard and crusty, but I also like it just before it gets to the super crunchy stage…when the middle is still not cooked…so I take a bit and then put it back in to finish the middle…weird I know.   I’m serious though – see boule already broken in to.

This post has become way longer than what I intended.  I was hoping it would be quick and guide you into the light of Artisan breadmaking.  I do love making bread.  But now, I looovveee making Artisan bread the most.  It’s so nice to not knead.  It’s nice to make small loaves that you can eat while their fresh, and not worry about eating all the bread in one sitting, since of course – you still have three-five more boules of dough waiting in the fridge.  We’re big fans, hopefully you will be too!

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