I need to tell you about this bread, because it’s changing my life, one loaf at a time.
For Christmas, my hubby gave me the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Since then, there is always a bucket of bread dough in my fridge, ready to be shaped into beautiful round loaves. This bread is so quick and easy that it even constitutes as a weeknight dinner for us, when paired with salad and a chicken breast or a bowl of soup. And on two occasions, when I’ve been home sick and nothing in the pantry seemed appealing, I’ve whipped up a loaf of bread for breakfast.
“Whipped up a loaf of bread.” I guess that’s not a weird thing to say anymore, thanks to this book.
The book contains recipes for several types of dough that can be refrigerated and then used over a course of 5-14 days, and then gives variations on those recipes. For example, there’s a challah recipe that can be modified to create all kinds of sweet loaves like cinnamon buns and turnovers; the basic white bread that I’m sharing with you today can be augmented with herbs, cheese, raisins or anything else you wish. There are recipes for whole wheat loaves which I’ve tried as well.
Here’s a recipe for the basic boule. It takes about 5 minutes to throw all the ingredients into a large bucket or Tupperware contained and stir them, and then the dough sits in your fridge. When you want to make a loaf, you break off a chunk of the dough, let it rise, and bake it.
Um, you should know: this is the best bread I’ve ever made.
Let’s get on with it.
Here’s what you need:
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp. yeast
1 1/2 tbsp. salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (using unbleached is key!)
Cornmeal for the pizza stone (and yeah, having a pizza stone is pretty key too. Because of this bread recipe, my pizza stone hardly ever leaves my oven nowadays – I make bread that often! But, if you don’t have one and don’t want to buy one, you can put this bread in a greased bread pan).
Here’s what you do:
Combine all the ingredients (except the cornmeal) in a large lidded container (one that you can punch holes in the lid is best – I use an old profiteroles container from Costco). Yeah, you heard it: no proofing the yeast or developing the gluten. Stir the ingredients until combined. This requires a bit of elbow grease. If your stand mixer wasn’t broken, like mine is, you could use the mixer fitted with the dough hook for this job.
Place the lid on the container in a way that allows some air flow and allow the dough to rise for two hours.
After the dough has risen, place the container in the fridge.
When you want a loaf of bread, generously dust some unbleached flour over the surface of the dough and tear off a chunk of dough about the size of a grapefruit (this recipe should make four loaves, so you can gauge size based on this). Ensuring the chunk you’ve pulled off has a good coating of flour, cup the dough in your two hands with your fingers underneath the dough and your thumbs on top (as if you were bumping a volleyball, but with dough in your hands…my husband will love me for this analogy). Stretch your thumbs away from each other and down the sides of the ball of dough, turn the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Continue to do this for 30-60 seconds until the dough is nice and round and smooth on top. This process is called creating a “gluten cloak” on the dough, which is key for the crusty exterior we associate with artisan breads.
Place your dough on a cutting board (or pizza peel, if you have one) that you’ve spread a layer of cornmeal on top of. Allow to rise for 40 minutes.
Twenty minutes before baking, place your pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 450F (the oven won’t likely reach 450F in twenty minutes, but this is okay).
Once the dough has risen, dust with more flour and slash with a serrated knife in a criss-cross or whatever pattern you want.
Slide the dough off the cutting board an onto the pre-heated pizza stone with the help of a large flipper or spatula (this will be made easier by the cornmeal). Into the oven with the bread, place an oven safe dish with 1 cup of water in it. The bread bakes in the steam created!
Bake for 30 minutes. When it’s done, the bread will be a deep golden brown and have a crusty exterior.
Notes: this bread actually tastes better once cooled. It rarely gets that way in our house, but I’m just saying. This dough can be stored in your fridge for up to 14 days, and develops a more complex sourdough-y taste over time – it’s worth waiting for!