We love bread in this house. However, we are very picky about our breads. Each kid has a personal favorite from the bakery or grocery store aisles. Most of the time, I can't stomach to purchase the favorites. I won't even divulge the range of bread selections we would have if given to a shopping trip with all four kids in tow...not to mention the Hubs with his sprouted, heavy-grained healthy options! We all come together in agreement that homemade bread rocks - in any way, shape or form.
My hesitation in making homemade bread always swirled around the idea that from scratch bread always took forever to make. I am here to let you know that this is not true!
A few years ago my mom gave me this wonderful cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day written by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I was quite skeptical and doubted that homemade bread would take such little prep as a mere 5 minutes. What a surprise to discover that minimal prep time was necessary to have a delicious loaf of artisan bread on the table night after night. The cookbook gives numerous variations on the basic bread recipe and also includes other recipes that can revolutionize your baking.
The following recipe makes the base dough that you can keep in your refrigerator after baking your first loaf. I typically get at least 4 loaves from the initial batch (using a grapefruit-size portion for each loaf.)
Amazingly Easy Artisan Bread
Recipe from: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
In the large bowl, combine water, yeast, and salt. Stir together. No need to wait until yeast is bubbly. Add in flour all at once and stir together. All portions of the dough should be moistened so that no flour is left uncombined. Cover mixture with lid or plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for two hours, or until doubled in size. Place bowl of dough, still covered, in fridge overnight and up to 14 days.
How to make a loaf: Sprinkle baking stone, pizza peel or parchment paper, with corn meal. Remove bowl from refrigerator. Sprinkle a “cloak” (give it a cozy covering) of flour over the dough – you’re not trying to mix it in or make your dough less sticky. Cut off a grapefruit -sized piece of dough, and pull all four sides, one at a time, to the bottom to form a ball. Flour your hands if dough is sticking to them. There is no need to make the loaf look smooth.
Let loaf rest for 20 minutes (or more, if kitchen is drafty or cool - which it is here this time of year). Most of the actual rising will take place in the oven. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and at least 20 minutes before you plan to bake, place pizza stone in oven on the second to bottom rack, and place broiler pan on the rack below that.
After 20 minutes have passed, sprinkle top of loaf with flour (to keep knife from sticking). Using a serrated knife, make two 1/4 inch cuts crosswise on the top of the loaf.
Pop the dough onto the pan you will bake it on if you have it on a pizza peel or parchment up to this point. Quickly pour a cup of hot water into the broiler pan. Shut oven as quickly as possible to retain steam. This steaming process is what gives it a crispy crust and gorgeous caramel-color.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until crust is browned and hardened. Check after 20 minutes but it may need to go longer. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack; It's really hard to wait until it is cooled to cut into it, but if you don't, it will release essential moisture and cave a bit.
You can freeze dough after first rise in portions, wrap in parchment and store in freezer bag. You can also freeze the loaf after baking in a freezer bag.