Artisan Bread

This recipe not only makes truly great bread, cinnamon rolls and pizza, but it also so easy it is embarrassing to admit to.

I made the dough this morning while cooking Allan’s pancakes.  It really is that easy and takes that much time.

Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)

Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.

  • 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100F, slightly warmer than body temperature)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (1-1/2 packets)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
  • 6-1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method

PREP DAY

1. In a big 5-quart bowl or plastic container, mix water, yeast, and salt. Stir it around. You don’t need to wait for the yeast to dissolve. If the water’s too hot, then you risk killing your yeast. If it’s too cold, it’ll still work but it’ll take longer for it to rise.

2. Dump in all the dough and mix with a wooden spoon until all of the flour is moistened. You don’t need to knead the dough.

3. Cover loosely with a lid or plastic wrap over the opening of the container and wait for the dough to rise. If the water’s just right, it’ll take about 2 hours for your dough to rise enough the first time. If it’s cold water, it might take more like 3-4 hours to rise.

(This is the dough before rising.  As anyone with an eagle eye can see I splashed out on the container.  It is an empty ice cream container.)

(After two hours rising, the dough now almost fills the container.)

That’s it for today. Stick your covered container of dough into the fridge. Seems like you can use the dough any time for about the next 2 weeks. If you’re in a hurry, you could use some of the dough right away but it’s really wet and sticky at room temperature. Much easier to work with when the dough is cold so try to refrigerate it for at least 3 hours before shaping it.

BAKING DAY

1. Sprinkle some flour on your kitchen counter (or wherever you’re going to let your dough rise).

2. Sprinkle some flour on the surface of your refrigerated dough and over your hands too. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound piece of dough (about the size of a grapefruit, or one fourth of the total amount of dough). Roll that hunk of dough lightly through the flour on the counter to try to prevent it from sticking.

Form it into a ball by gently stretching the top of the dough around to the bottom of the dough, rotate a quarter turn, stretch again, and so on until you’ve got yourself a ball of dough. The bottom might look like a bunch of bunched ends but they’ll flatten out. The surface should look smooth (mine generally look smooth-ish).

3. Allow the ball of dough to rest for about 40 minutes on your floured counter.

4. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. (or just use a baking sheet) On a separate shelf below the baking stone, place an empty broiler pan.

5. Just before baking, dust the top of your ball of dough with flour and use a serrated knife to slash a big X about 1/4-inch deep across the top. Slide the dough on top of the preheated baking stone. Quickly (but carefully) pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler pan and then close the oven door to trap in the steam.

6.Bake for about 30 minutes until the crust is browned and firm to the touch. Remove to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely.

I have also used this to make buns – with and without the steam depending on how much crust I want. I made cinnamon buns with it too, in a cake tin. It is also good for pizza.

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