Sunday, March 7, 2010

Some Bread for Your Butter

I love baking and, coincidentally, my family loves eating. It works well. We have soup and bread at least once a week. Last Monday, I shared one of our favorite soup recipes here. Lots of requests for a bread recipe followed, so here goes...

I found this book, Artsian Bread in Five Minutes a Day, last summer and LOVE it. (I know it sounds like I buy cookbooks all the time. Really, I only have a small shelf of them and most of them I've had for years. Those I have I love and use often!) Prior to this find, I'd had a standard french bread recipe that we all loved. Now we've got a new favorite and it is REALLY easy! Hang with me, it seems a bit complicated, but it isn't! And you'll be rewarded with bread that looks like those fancy $5.00 loaves at the store.

Just a warning - I am not an exact cook. So, if you are a precise kind-of cook, this might frustrate you.

Here is what you need:

a plastic lidded bucket - like an ice cream pail

3 c warm water (just above room temperature)

1 1/2 T yeast (I get mine from Sam's Club 2lbs at a time.)

1 T kosher salt

6 1/2 c all purpose flour (use unbleached if you can get it - it is healthier for you and works the same as bleached)

a wooden spoon

some cornmeal for the cutting board

a cutting board

a pizza stone

a metal pan - broiler pans work best

a spatula

Pour the water into the bucket. Add yeast and stir. It won't all dissolve, but try to get most of it.

Add in the salt and stir. As you can see, I don't measure it anymore. Measure it a few times with a spoon and dump it into your hand so you can see what it looks like...less dishes to wash!

Add the flour and stir until you don't see any dry spots of flour. You should get a wet and sticky dough. If it is watery, add some more flour a little bit at a time. If it seems dry, sprinkle in some water and stir. You'll have to play around with this some. It is amazing how different brands of flour can vary. You DO NOT need to knead the dough (I think that is a great sentence).

Put the lid on the bucket but don't seal it all the way. Let is sit on your counter for 2 hours. It should rise up to the top of the lid. If it doesn't, you might want to dump it and start over. Luckily, you'll only be throwing out much less than a buck's worth of ingredients. Making your own bread is cheap!
Next, put the bucket in the fridge until you want to make bread. It can sit in your fridge for up to two weeks. The longer it sits,the easier it will be work with and the more of a sour dough taste it will have.
On bread making day, take out your cutting board and sprinkle it with cornmeal.

When you want bread, take out the bucket and sprinkle some flour over the top of the dough. Reach in and cut off hunk of the bread about the size of a grapefruit. If you do it this size, you'll get three loaves out of your bucket. I usually grab bigger hunks and make two loaves.

Stretch the top of the dough to the bottom, turn it a quarter turn and stretch it again. Repeat for a few times around. The top of the ball will look smooth, the bottom will be a mess. That is just fine. If you want your loaf less round and more "loafy," roll it between your hands for a bit. If it is sticky - get some flour on your hands.

Let the dough rest for 20 minutes on the cutting board.

Set your oven to 450 degrees. Put one oven rack on the top rung and the other just below the middle rung. Put the metal pan on the top rack and the pizza stone on the other. Wait 20 minutes.

Sprinkle a bit more flour over the bread and take a knife and make a few slashes across the top of the bread. You can make an "x" or parallel slashes - whatever fits your mood. Sometimes, in the hub bub around here I totally forget this step and it turns out just fine. No one seems to notice the added little touches but me...they just want to eat.

Get 1 c hot water ready. Slide dough from cutting board to pizza stone. You'll probably need a spatula to help with this. Pour the hot water into the metal pan. Let the bread cook for about 30 minutes. The crust gets very crispy and chewy and a bit dark because of the water which makes steam in the oven.

Take out the bread and let it cool on the counter. Listen closely - after a minute or two you'll hear an amazing thing! The crust on your bread will start to crackle. It really crackles. I love that sound; it is just so happy!

It is going to smell great and you'll want to cut into it after about 10 minutes. You can and we do, but it is very hard to cut when it is really warm. Letting it cool for at least an hour is best. This bread freezes very well.

If this doesn't make sense...ask away!

Be ready for your husband (or wife??) and kids to shower dozens of hugs and kisses on you because they are going to LOVE this bread! Just thought I should warn you.
I'd love to hear if you give this a try! The book has lots of great recipes for different types of bread all built around these same basic ideas. They are amazing! I'll be posting about those I'm trying.


  1. We love this Aritsan 5 bread too!! I had a bucket going in the fridge all last summer. Once I made rolls with the dough and served it with some delicious chicken salad. Yum!

    We also like to chunk up this bread and dip it in an olive oil/herb mix. I should send you the recipe. We just had this Saturday as part of our "date night" (at home) dinner.

    Do you ever have trouble getting the bread from the board to the stone? That was the trickiest part for me!

  2. Big Guy says... the only problem with this bread is that we eat it too quickly! It is wonderful. And, may I say that walking in the door after work to the smell of freshly baked bread is a great gift. Thanks Wen!

  3. Shelly,
    The key to getting the bread off the board is LOTS of least that works me. Dipping oil is a big favorite here too as are at home date nights. :) Are we twins or something?

  4. No problem Big Guy! I just like having you walk in the door!

  5. I'm going to try this Wendy! Thanks for the recipe! I'll let you know how it turns out.

  6. Hmmm...where's the button for the printer-friendly verson? (ha ha) This does look fabulous! Thanks for sharing! Amy K

  7. This is a must for soup night!! We also love this bread, thanks Wendy for introducing us to it.

  8. I have this book, too, and have been ogling the recipe for brioche, but haven't gotten around to trying that yet. At the very least, when there are leftovers (?) it makes great oven french toast. I like mine with sour cherries in it. PLUS, your granola recipe looks great and cheap too - err, inexpensive! I'm going to offer it as an idea for a couple I'm visiting.

  9. ps - I LOVE your pictures! They're better than the book!

  10. You inspired me to mix up a batch yesterday. Yummy! Wayne's been wanting some of this bread for quite a while. The warm bread out of the oven made indeed makes for a happy husband walking in the door :)
    Your blog is great--and I figured out how to follow it!!

  11. Wendy,
    I have sure have been enjoying reading your blog!
    And I think we ARE twins!! :)

  12. Do you have to have a pizza stone? Could I use something else, do you think? I've never made bread - but this seems doable :)