Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Easy Artisan Bread Appetizer

Obviously I am the one most interested in baking. I think it’s the scientist in me (compared to my creative Beauties.) This recipe started with some fresh baked Bialys (an East Coast favorite) one morning on Lopez Island after some make-your-own pizzas the evening before. The same friend that blew me away with her fresh baking gave me the book she used for Christmas, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg, MD and Zoe Francois. Now that is my kind of time commitment!

I have been playing with the main recipe ever since and it’s pretty hard to mess up. That is not to say I didn’t explode Pyrex glass containers in my oven twice before I realized what a broiler pan was but that is part of the hands-on learning I had to experience.

The Master Recipe can be shaped into a Boule, Baguette, Ciabatta rolls, or any variation you’d like. The concept is you make the dough, let it rise for 2 hours, and then throw into the refrigerator for as long as 14 days. Anytime you need a fresh loaf you grab a handful of dough out of your container.

What you need: 

3 cups of lukewarm water (do NOT use to water that is too hot)
1 ½ tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 ½ tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
6 ½ cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
Cornmeal or Whole wheat flour for the pizza peel

1:  Add yeast and salt to the water in a the large bowl you will be storing the dough in or you can use an electric mixer (that is my method and I use the dough attachment.)

2:  Mix in the flour—kneading is unnecessary.  The key to this recipe is do NOT knead at any point!

3: Allow to rise: cover with a lid (not airtight).  At least 2 hours or up to 5 hours.  You could use it at this point to bake but the book suggests that the refrigerated dough is easier to handle.  Put into the refrigerator.

On Baking Day:

4: The gluten cloak: DON’T knead, just “cloak” and shape a loaf in 30 to 60 seconds.  Sprinkle your surface with the cornmeal or whole wheat flour.  Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour.  Pull up and cut off a 1 pound piece (grapefruit size) of dough.  Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.  The correctly shaped product will be smooth on the top and bunched ends on the bottom.

5: Rest the loaf on the pizza peel (or surface) for 40 minutes.

6: Twenty minutes before baking preheat the oven to 450 F with the baking stone on the middle rack and an empty broiler tray on the bottom for holding water.

7: Dust with flour and slash the dough with a cross or X.

8:  Quickly slide the dough off of the surface onto your baking stone.  Quickly and carefully pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam.  Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is browned and firm to the touch (less time for Baguettes.)  When you take the bread out of the oven it will crackle to the room temperature and cool on a rack.

That is it! I encourage you to get the book if you are interested in other variations or are interested in other details like problem solving your challenges. Once you practice a couple of times you really could come home from work and have fresh bread within the hour. Then opening a can of soup for dinner seem that bad!

~ Jolie

Ta-da! Finished product.


  1. You inspired me, I asked Santa for a bread cookbook. Not sure when I'll have the time to bake it, but if you can do it, then I can too! And I love the concept of keeping it in the fridge and baking fresh. I seriously couldn't stop talking about your homemade bread and how wonderful it was!

  2. Ugh...I really want to make homemade bread and do this recipe, Jolie. But I'd rather you just come over and feed me yours. ;) We need to just have a bread and spread night, that would totally satisfy me!