Monday, October 31, 2011

EASY Artisan Bread

In case you didn't know, homemade bread is one of the greatest things in the world. The smell alone is enough to make your heart warm up, but cutting into it and slathering on some butter that just melts and oozes right into the bread is AMAZING. I honestly feel sad for people who don't enjoy warm, fresh baked bread at least once every few weeks, if not every single week.

I know that homemade bread can be daunting. The yeast! Is the water too hot? Should I knead by hand? Is my mixer kneading it enough? How do I know when it's done? And then it gets eaten up so fast that it almost seems like all that hard work wasn't even worth it. Well, let me tell you, there is an easier way. I'm done my fair share of proofing yeast, hand-kneading for 10-15 minutes, witnessing dough that doesn’t rise, etc. . . It’s not exactly fun.  Then, I saw the light. The no-knead, bread-so-easy-you’ll-freak  light. I bought this book. And now, I am going to share with you the main recipe. I honestly make this bread about 1-2 times a week, every week. Sometimes more. Sure, it doesn’t exactly help that baby weight melt away, but it sure warms my soul!

I’m doing things a little crazy today. The thing about this bread recipe is that you use the same bowl over and over when you are mixing up the dough. You don’t even need to clean it. Because I already had some dough in the fridge, enough for one loaf, I made the bread, and then used the bowl to make up a new batch to share with you all. When you make your bread, the bowl will obviously be clean and you won’t need to do things like scrape down the sides and incorporate the extra into the new dough. I know, this all sounds crazy when you haven’t read the recipe yet. :)

EASY Artisan Bread
You only need 4 ingredients for this bread. Yes, FOUR!
3 Cups warm Water. No need to take the temperature here. You can actually even use cool water. Seriously. 
1 1/2 Tablespoons Active Dry Yeast
1 1/2 Tablespoons Salt, I use Sea Salt
6 1/2 Cups unbleached, all-purpose Flour

The flour isn't in the picture because I didn't feel like scooping 6 1/2 Cups out of my 25 lb bag for the picture. :)
 Grab some kind of huge container that has a lid. It should be at least 5 qts. I have this big yellow bowl that has a tupperware type lid. You can find big buckets online though, or i've heard that those clear shoe box-like boxes work pretty great as well. My bowl is "dirty" from my last batch of dough. When you make a new batch of this bread dough, you just use the same bowl again.
 If this is your second time around, go ahead and grab a wooden spoon and scrape all the extra stuff off of the bowl and down into the middle. Go ahead and leave it there while we add the ingredients for the new batch.
 Grab your container and throw in the ingredients! Order doesn't matter. Here is the water!
 There goes the yeast!
 Last but not least, the flour. No need to weigh the flour or anything. Just scoop it in your bag and then use a knife to scrape the excess off the top.
 Mix it all up!
 You don't need to mix this too much. Just make sure everything is moist. You can even use your hands if you like. This should only take about 2 or 3 minutes. Now, cover your container, but NOT air tight. I just set the lid on top of the bowl without pressing it down. Let it sit on the counter for 2 hours.
 Silly me forgot to take a picture after the 2 hours was up. Oops! At this point, put the whole bowl into the fridge and you can leave it there for up to 14 days. Yes, you read that right! Two weeks! You can also use it right away, but it's a little easier to handle when it's cold. Now, the baking part is where I differ from the book. The authors use a baking stone and a pizza peel. I have neither of these. If you do, feel free to ask me in the comments about how to use them to bake this bread. I use an upside-down baking sheet, parchment paper, and corn meal.
Please excuse the skillet full of bacon fat in the background :)
 Grab your bowl of dough. Your container will have MUCH more than this. The recipe makes enough for about 4 loaves of bread. This is my last little chunk to make one loaf. When you are making one loaf, grab a grapefruit sized amount of dough from your batch.
 Sprinkle some flour all over the top to make it easier to handle. This dough is sticky!
 Now, you're going to form a ball by pulling one side of the dough and folding it under. Rotate 90 degrees and repeat all the way around the ball. I know that sounds super confusing. Think of it like you are making a bed and you are pulling the sheet's corner, tucking it under the mattress, and then moving on to the next corner. This is all called the "gluten cloak." Set the dough onto your corn meal sprinkled, parchment lined cookie sheet and let it sit for 40 minutes. No need to cover it up.
 At the 20 minute mark, you can start to pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees and then let your bread rise the following 20 minutes. Sprinkle some more flour onto the top and, using a serrated knife, cut a few slashes in the top.
 Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.
 Once it's done, remove to a wire rack immediately to cool. You will probably want to wait 10-15 minutes before even attempting to cut this, because it is HOT! Serve with butter, pasta, soup, nothing, and enjoy!

Extra notes: You are probably wondering about why you don't clean the bowl in between uses. Have you heard of, or made, a sourdough starter? It's basically a mixture of flour and water that you let ferment for a while and use to make sourdough bread. Those extra scraps in the bowl actually act, somewhat, like a sourdough starter. They add a very mild sourdough taste to the bread that is SO delicious! Also, if you wait the entire 2 weeks before using up your dough, know that it probably won't rise as much and will be a denser bread. The sourdough taste might be a little stronger. Not that there is anything wrong with that. :D
You can also have a shallow pan on the bottom rack of your oven and when you put the bread into the oven, dump 1 cup of water into that pan and shut the oven door immediately. This creates a crispier crust. This bread is pretty crusty anyway, and my hubs thinks the softer the better, so I skip that step.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this to read your directions..clear and entertaining...


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