Few things in the world smell better than bread baking in your oven; there is just something so warm and inviting about it! If you are like me, you always wanted to bake your own bread but thought you couldn’t because making bread was a gift handed to you by the gods that only a few mere mortals possessed, and they all became bakers. Recently, however, I decided to try my hand at it, and it was surprisingly easy! Plus, bread is extra delicious when it is still warm from being freshly baked and has some nice butter spread across it.
Also if you are like me, you want me to shut up and just get to the recipe already - which I will - I just wanted to mention that the cool thing about this recipe is that it makes enough dough for multiple loaves. I got three loaves out of this batch. So you can keep the dough in the fridge, and just bake off a fresh loaf whenever you feel like it! Ok, without further ado, here is the recipe:
5-Minute Artisan Bread
Adapted from this recipe on Splendid Table.
1.5 Tablespoons of yeast
1.5 Tablespoons of kosher salt
6.5 Cups of unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting (Yes, unbleached is important and will cook up a better loaf, but I have also used bleached and it still works)
3 Cups of lukewarm water (about 100 F)
Cornmeal for dusting
1. In a large container or bowl, combine yeast with warm water and stir. The water should be about 100 F, if it is too warm it could kill your yeast. Let it sit for about 5 minutes to see if yeast blooms, meaning it has a white bubbly froth on the surface. This means the yeast is alive and ready to get to work making you some bread!
2. Add the flour and salt to the bowl and mix until everything is well incorporated. This is a very wet, loose dough, so do not look for it to come to a ball. Just make sure there are no dry spots. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let it rise for 2-5 hours. It is done rising once the top of the dough is flat, or very slightly collapsed in. Mine took about 3.5 hours.
3. Once it is done rising, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge. At this point, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Refrigerated dough is easier to work with, so if this is your first time baking, leave it in the fridge for at least 3 hours, or better yet, overnight.
4. When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 450 F. You can either bake this bread on a pizza stone or in a dutch oven. If using a pizza stone, put the pizza stone on the middle rack and place a broiler pan below it. If using a dutch oven (I find this method works better), place the dutch oven with the lid on in the oven on a middle rack. You want whatever you are cooking you bread in to heat up in the oven for at least 20 minutes before baking.
5. Take your dough out of the fridge and sprinkle a little flour on the dough, your work surface, and your hands. Gently lift up the dough, try not to burst all those nice air bubbles, and cut off about a grapefruit-size hunk of dough (about 1 pound). Work the dough for about 30-60 seconds by gently stretching one side (about 1/4 of the dough) until you feel resistance (don’t let it tear), and folding it back in on itself. Do a quarter turn and repeat the process. Once all sides have been folded in and form a sort of ball shape, flip it over. You should have a nice smooth top, and a bunched up bottom (called the seam-side). NOTE: Use flour to keep the dough from sticking to you or the surface, but try not to incorporate a lot of it into the dough as you work it.
6. Cover your loaf with a clean kitchen towel and let your loaf rise for about 40 minutes. In the meantime, if you are using a pizza stone, prepare a pizza peel (can substitute with a flat no-lip cookie sheet), by sprinkling on some cornmeal. You can cover the rest of the dough with cling wrap and put it in the fridge to use at a later time.
7. Once the loaf is done proofing, use a serrated knife and slash the top of the dough in three parallel, 1/4-inch deep cuts. If using a pizza stone, place the loaf on your prepared peel and make sure it slides around easily on the cornmeal. Then slide the dough onto your preheated baking stone. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into broiler pan and quickly close the oven door to trap steam. If you are using a Dutch oven, put your loaf on some parchment paper and carefully place it into your hot Dutch oven, cover it with the lid, and put it in the oven. Bake until the crust is well-browned and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. If using a dutch oven, remove the cover about 20-30 minutes in and let it cook until the crust is nice and brown. A great way to check if your bread is fully baked is to tap the bottom of it (wear oven mitts), if it sounds hollow, it is fully baked. Once baked, remove from your bread from oven, place it on a wire rack, and let it cool completely before eating.