I've tried to make artisan bread too many times to count. I've tried the sourdough starter thing...keeping a jar of it in the refrigerator at the cabin until one of our kids called with horror "what is that jar of moldy gray stuff in the frig???" OK. I guess trying to keep sourdough alive and well at a cabin is not possible... However, when I tried a recipe from "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" I got re-inspired!! This is easy! No sour mixtures sitting in the frig! No kneading required! And as an added bonus, it tastes wonderful!
The recipe I tried was European Peasant Bread. There is a small amount of whole wheat flour, which of course, made me feel like I could eat the whole loaf and not feel a bit guilty. Whole wheat is good right? Never mind that it is only 1/2 cup whole wheat to 5 1/2 cup all purpose....
European Peasant Bread
from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Mix the yeast, salt and water.
Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading. You can use the dough hook on a mixer or just a wooden spoon.
Cover and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses, flattening on top. This should take about 2 hours.
The dough can be used immediately, although it is easier to use if it is cold. Now (this is the best part) it can be stored in the refrigerator for 14 days!! Just make sure it is in a lidded but not airtight container.
On baking day..."dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a grapefruit-size piece. Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 40 minutes." After 20 minutes, liberally sprinkle top of dough with flour and slash with a serrated bread knife. You can slash whatever design you want...a cross, 3-4 parallel lines, or tic-tac-toe!!
Here are the options for baking:
...outside in woodburning oven. The oven should be about 550 degrees without a flame. Bake about 30 minutes until browned. You can see it gets pretty dark in the wood burning oven. If it gets too dark, just throw handy-dandy tin foil over...
...conventional oven on a pizza stone. Preheat the stone in a 450 degree oven. Place a broiler pan on any shelf in the oven that won't interfere with the bread rising. Slide loaf onto hot stone, immediately pour 1 cup hot water into the broiler pan, and quickly close the oven door. Bake approximately 35 minutes until top crust is deeply browned and very firm.
...conventional oven in a dutch oven casserole. I think this is the easiest. Make sure the knob on your casserole will withstand 500 degrees. Evidently the plastic knobs will start smoking at 450 degrees! Not a pleasant odor for your fresh bread to absorb...
1) Shape the boule, and let it rest on parchment paper for about 40 minutes.
2) Preheat the pot with the lid on for about 20 minutes at 500 degrees.
3) Slash the dough about 1/4 inches deep.
4) lift the dough and drop it carefully, paper and all, into the preheated pot. Replace the lid and slip it back into the oven.
5) After 15 minutes, remove the lid, turn the heat down to 450 degrees and bake another 15-20 minutes. The lid initially enabled the dough to bake in the steam and now without the lid, the dough will develop its wonderful caramel color!
6) I would try using an instant read thermometer to determine if the bread is done. From what I have read, the bread should be 205-210 degrees. I think this loaf was not quite done...but I did not have a thermometer to check it...
The directions I used for this method came from the following site: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=552 (Baking Bread in a Dutch Oven)
It has thorough directions...and better pictures! (: Also, I would recommend the book!
Fun.....delicious....and easy enough for fresh crusty bread every night!