I’ll just say it…I stink at keeping a blog. I always take pictures of what I make, but somehow, they don’t make their way on here. I get lazy or choose to do other things instead. *Sigh* I wanted to give you a simple (albeit lengthy) recipe to try to make it up to you. I like making this bread because it takes almost no time at all to mix everything up and I don’t have to knead the dough. It’s also handy to have dough ready to go in the fridge for whenever you want some fresh baked bread.
The Master Recipe – Boule (Artisan Free Form Loaf)
Adapted slightly from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
- 6 1/2 cups, unsifted, all purpose white flour
- cornmeal for baking stone
1. Warm the water slightly. It should feel slightly warmer than body temperate, about 100 degrees F.
2. Add yeast and salt to the water in a large bowl, or preferably in a resealable lidded (not airtight) plastic food container. Don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve.
3. Mix in the flour – kneading is unnecessary. Add all of the flour at once, measuring it in with dry-ingredient measuring cups, by gently scooping up the flour, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula. Don’t press down on the flour or you’ll throw off the measurement by compressing. Mix with a wooden spoon. If it becomes too difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, you can reach in and press the mixture together. Don’t knead! You’re finished when everything is uniformly moist. The dough should be wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of the container.
4. Allow to rise. Cover with lid (not airtight) that fits well. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), approximately 2 hours, depending on the room’s temperature and initial water temperature. Longer rising times (up to 5 hours) will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period. Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature. The first time you try, it’s best to refrigerate the dough overnight (or at least 3 hours) before shaping a loaf.
5. Prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent your loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven. Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-lb. (grapefruit-size) piece of dough, using a serrated knife. Hold the mass of dough in your hands add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Most of the dusting flour will fall off. The bottom of the loaf might look like a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out and adhere during resting and baking. The correctly shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more than 30 to 60 seconds.
6. Place the shaped ball on the cornmeal-covered pizza peel. Allow the loaf to rest on the peel for about 40 minutes (it doesn’t need to be covered during this time). Depending on the age of the dough, you may not see much rise during this period; more rising will occur during baking.
7. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread.
8. Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour, which will allow the slashing knife to pass without sticking. Slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife.
9. After a 20 minute preheat, you’re ready to bake. With a quick forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the preheated baking stone. Quickly, but carefully, pour about 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Because you’ve used wet dough, there is little risk of drying out the interior, despite the dark crust. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack, for best flavor, texture, and slicing. The perfect crust may initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled.
10. Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next 14 days. You’ll find that even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of the bread. This maturation continues over the 14-day storage period. The dough can also be frozen in 1-lb. portions in an airtight container and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking day.
*NOTE: I don’t own a pizza peel so I usually just use one of those thin plastic cutting boards. I don’t recommend it; it’s not the best option, especially because you have to be careful not to touch anything hot with the plastic. It’s the alternative that I’m using for now.