Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Bread

One of my projects yesterday was starting a batch of artisan bread.  According to the recipe, you should be able to make the batch and keep it in the fridge for up to 14 days, cutting off hunks to bake as you  need them.  The longer the dough ages, the more like sourdough it becomes.   Supposedly there are several sweet and savory variations to use with the basic dough recipe.  

Now, ever since I lost my job, I have been baking a lot of bread. White bread, wheat bread, challah, cinnamon swirl, banana, zucchini, pumpkin.  I'd never really thought about making "artisan" bread, thinking it was basically white bread baked in a circle on a sheet instead of in a loaf pan.  And truly, the ingredients are pretty similar, but the execution of the recipes differ drastically.    Usually, making bread takes up several hours in the morning or early afternoon.  There's the mixing and kneading, rising, punching down, rising again and finally baking.  Usually, there's quite a bit of fat is included in the recipe, as well as sugar, or milk.  This recipe is easy. It calls for 4 ingredients- water, yeast, flour and salt.  There is no kneading, and once it has risen for a couple hours, you can stick it in the fridge until the day you want to bake it.

Here's the recipe (modified from here and possibly here.)

3 cups of lukewarm water (or warm whey from making ricotta cheese, which is what I used!)
2 packets of yeast, or 1.5 Tbsp
6.5 cups flour
1.5 Tbsp kosher or coarse salt

In a small bowl, mix the water and yeast.  The yeast won't all dissolve immediately, don't worry about it.  Let this mixture stand for a few minutes while you prepare the flour and salt.  Stir the flour and salt together in a large bowl with a lid. A 5 quart food storage bucket would be great if you have one.  Make a well in the flour.

Pour the yeast and water mixture into the well. Mix together gently until all the dry ingredients have been absorbed into the dough mass.  If you're having trouble getting the last bit of flour worked in, wet your hands and use them to mix the dough. Don't Knead!

Floured on top with chunk removed. This is the largest bowl I have!
Cover the large bowl, but not sealed or airtight. Let it rise for 2-5 hours or until the dough collapses on itself.  Put the bowl in the fridge.   You can use the dough immediately, but it is easier to handle if it has chilled for a while.

To bake: Take the dough out of the fridge and sprinkle lightly wit flour. Cut off a softball sized chunk, using a serrated knife.  Keeping the floured surface on top, pull the sides down to the bottom of the ball and smooth the lump of dough.  Put it on a cookie sheet or pizza stone to rise for 40 minutes.  

Twenty minutes into the rise time, set your oven for 450*F, and place a baking or broiling pan in the oven under the rack you plan to bake on.   At the end of the 40 minute rise time, lightly flour your lump of dough. Using the same serrated knife, make three or four slashes through the top, no more than 1/4 inch deep. 
Dusted and slashed

Finished product
Pour an 8 oz cup of hot tap water into the baking dish you placed in the oven, then put the cookie sheet in the oven.  Keep the oven door closed to trap the steam- this will give you a really crunchy crust.    Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden.

Now here's the hard part: Try not to cut into the loaf for about 15 minutes, the crumb texture will drastically improve, and it will be easier to cut.  But if you do like I did- cut into my first loaf immediately- real butter and a good quality jam is excellent on it!
Fresh out of the oven!

Speaking of jam... I'll be using up the rest of my apples this week for apple butter, and perhaps I'll post the recipe and pics for my pear lemon jam too!

What's cooking in your kitchen?


  1. I'll try this ??? again...Is it ok to not flour the lump after the 40 min rise time? Not so crazy about the floury feeling in my mouth. Crusty texture good. Floury texture not so much!--Blayr

  2. Blayr- I think the flour on top is supposed to make it easier to slash the loaf. Slashing is necessary, otherwise, you'll get big air pockets under the crust. Flouring- well maybe not so necessary. Let me know how your second loaf turns out!