This is the recipe for basic plain white bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. I’m about to finish up my second batch of this and am as pleased as I was with the first loaf. I used a pizza stone and pizza peel, which makes it very easy. I think the preheated stone is essential to getting the good crust. They suggest you can use the back of a cookie sheet for a peel if you don’t have one but it won’t be quite as easy to handle. They also suggest you can use a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat if you don’t have a baking stone but you won’t get as nice a crust.
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 Tbs yeast
- 1 1/2 Tbs salt
- 6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour
- cornmeal for the bread paddle
Mix the lukewarm water, yeast and salt in a large bowl then add all the flour at once and stir it until there are no dry patches but you don’t knead the dough. The first time I used my KitchenAid mixer. The next time I just used the large Tupperware I store the bread dough in and a wooden spoon.
The dough will be very wet. Now let it rise 2 hours at room temperature, covered with a lid. Don’t use any glass containers to store the dough or airtight containers with no breathing room as the pressure from the rising could break your containers. I used a large Tupperware bowl. I’m not sure how big it is but the book suggests using a bowl that holds about 5 quarts (20 cups). Then refrigerate the whole thing. I mixed up my first batch after dinner one night and baked the first loaf the next night.
About an hour and a half before you want fresh baked bread, sprinkle some cornmeal onto a bread dough (pizza dough) paddle. The bread will rise on that and you’ll then slide it into the prebaked oven onto the prebaked baking stone.
Pull out about 1 pound of dough. Just sprinkle a little flour on it and use a serrated knife to hack off a piece about the size of a large grapefruit.
Shape it how you’d like. There are good detailed photos and directions in the book. I did their easiest one, which is to basically take the dough and tuck the edges under as you turn the dough in your hands. It’s hard to describe and I can’t take a picture of myself doing it! But basically shape it into a rough circle that’s a bit rounded but not a ball. Let it rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Put your baking stone in the oven and an empty small baking pan on another rack where it won’t get in the way. You’re going to dump hot water in the baking pan to create steam, which helps create the good crust.
Preheat the oven to 450 F for a good 20 minutes. If your oven hits 450 F before the time is up, wait until the 20 minutes are up because you want the baking stone to be hot when you put the dough on it.
Just before baking, use a serrated knife to make a few slashes in the bread. You can make a tic tac toe pattern or just a few parallel slashes across the top. Slide the bread onto the preheated stone. Then carefully add 1 cup of hot water to the empty baking pan–watch out for steam! Close the door and let the bread bake about 30 minutes. Let it cool on a wire rack when it’s done.
Put the rest back in the fridge, keeping the dough there for up to two weeks and baking as needed. You’ll get a total of 4 1-pound loaves of bread from each batch.
- It’s best to let it cool completely before slicing, although it’s awfully hard to resist. Let it cool at least a bit though, as the warm bread is hard to slice.
The book has a bunch of great sounding recipes although I’ve only tried the basic one so far. Other recipes include Italian semolina bread, 100% whole wheat sandwich bread, olive bread and deli-style rye bread. There are also recipes for things to make with the bread, including various sandwiches, spreads and stews.