Monday, January 23, 2012

Artisan Bread - Impossible to Ruin Recipes!

If you love those beautiful but expensive artisan breads that are all the rage these days, you are in for a treat. This bread recipe will change forever your vision of homemade bread. You will love the actual making of the bread as much as the irresistible deliciousness (my word) of the baked loaf. Count on it.

The best part? You cannot ruin this recipe.** It looks complicated but it's not. You will be amazed at the simplicity of this recipe. Five-Minute Artisan Bread is exactly the right name.

A lovely loaf of Five-Minute Artisan Bread
I first saw this recipe in our newspaper (The Minneapolis Star Tribune) a lonnnng time ago. I clipped it out and put it in with dozens and dozens of other recipes that I have clipped from newspapers and magazines.

I recently hauled out my stash of recipe clippings and found this recipe. Now, if you can read the date on the top of the clipping (click on the photo to enlarge it), you'll understand the scope of my stash of recipes. It's not pretty.

So I thought it was a sign that I should try my hand at bread making 101. Good decision. Here's the recipe from the newspaper clipping. Note that you can also make Sticky Buns!  My personal notes are in italics.

(Makes about 4 loaves)

Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. (Both from Minneapolis!)

1-1/2 tbsp. granulated yeast (about 1-1/2 packets)
1-1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
6-1/2 cups unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting dough


In a large plastic resealable container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm (about 100 degrees) water, Using a large spoon, stir in flour, mixing until mixture is uniformly moist with no dry patches.

Do not knead. Dough will be wet and loose enough to conform to shape of plastic container (well, not necessarily...mine was not so wet or loose, initially, but it didn't seem to matter. It loosened up while it was rising).

Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature, until dough begins to flatten on top or collapse, at least 2 hours and up to 5 hours.

My second batch...see the baked loaf in the background?
(At this point, dough can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks; refrigerated dough is easier to work with than room-temperature dough, so the authors recommend that first-time bakers refrigerate dough overnight or at least 3 hours.)

When ready to bake, sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza peel (I do not have a pizza peel so I used one of my many wooden cutting boards.) Place a broiler pan on bottom rack of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees, preheating baking stone for at least 20 minutes. (I didn't have a baking stone for my first batch so I used a heavy cookie sheet. Have since purchased an inexpensive one which works fine.)

Sprinkle a little flour on dough and on your hands. Pull dough up and, using a serrated knife, cut off a grapefruit-size piece (about 1 pound or about 1/4th of the dough).

Working for 30 to 60 seconds (and adding flour as needed to prevent dough from sticking to hands; most dusting flour will fall off, it's not intended to be incorporated into dough), turn dough in hands, gently stretching surface of dough, rotating ball a quarter-turn as you go, creating a rounded top and a bunched bottom. (okay, my hands were quite sticky and my shaping of the dough was not as perfect as this description. Didn't seem to matter, luckily.)

Place shaped dough on prepared pizza peel and let rest, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it in lidded container. (Even one day's storage improves flavor and texture of bread. Dough can be frozen in 1-pound portions in airtight containers and defrosted overnight in refrigerator prior to baking day.)

Dust dough with flour.*** Using a serrated knife, slash top of dough in three parallel, 1/4-inch deep cuts (or in a tic-tac-toe pattern). (I just slashed it was just great that way.)

Slide dough onto preheated baking stone. Pour 1 cup hot tap water into broiler pan and quickly close oven door to trap steam. Bake until crust is well-browned and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire rack and cool completely.

Well, I was immediately hooked on this wonderful bread baking adventure. Took me about five minutes to decide that I HAD to have this book. Bought it that very day. I was amazed at the variety of breads you can bake with this very same technique. You can add herbs to the recipes, too. You can make bagels, beignets, sticky buns, flat breads, pizzas and more.

Zoe has a blog called Zoe Bakes. Lots of good recipes, tales of her travels, etc.

You really need your very own copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. You'll first want to visit Zoe and Jeff's Blog. Jeff is actually a physician. You can read about both of them if you click on the Authors and Books link. There's also a page on that blog with the master recipe.

This is a picture of the "Light Whole Wheat Bread" recipe in the book. Same technique, slightly different ingredients. I just whipped this up a couple of days ago. Makes a delicious sandwich loaf.

You can bake this in a regular bread pan, too, but I like the freeform loaves.

Now, to interpret my asterisks:

** You cannot ruin this recipe. First try I didn't used unbleached flour. I didn't realize you needed it and only after re-reading the recipe did I notice that little rule. It was still very good but much better using the unbleached.

Another time I dropped my nice little formed loaf onto the hot oven door as I was trying to slide it onto the baking stone (a good reason to purchase a pizza peel). Aghast, I scraped it up, slapped it on the stone all disfigured (poor thing), actually took the time to try scraping the dough off the oven door...what a mess! Set off the smoke alarm, even. It STILL turned out great!

***If you want a chewier crust, brush the loaf lightly with water before slashing the top and sliding it into the oven.

Next bread book that I get is going to be their new one...Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. More whole grains and fruits and vegetables are used in the recipes.

This recipe is the perfect bread to serve when you entertain. Even if it's just you, some cheese and a glass of wine. That's entertaining, right?

How about making this for gifts? For someone new to the neighborhood, for example. Or to bring to a pot luck dinner. They'll think you slaved away for hours!

Please let me know if you try this. I hope you do. Have fun. Be creative.

And now I'm headed to the kitchen for some cheese and to open a bottle of wine.


  1. Cheryl, this sounds great! I do love those breads and I do have trouble justifying them now, moneywise, plus availability is a problem for me here. I love that you included the notion of entertaining yourself with bread, cheese and wine. I even have a great bread recipe book that makes me think I'd better get cracking as summer will come again and time for having the oven on for any extended time will be over. The season is upon us! Thanks for the nudge!

  2. Hi, Teresa! You are so right...these recipes are not just delicious. They're also easy on the pocket book. I've got a feeling our real Minnesota winter is lurking around the corner and will hit with a vengeance any day, now! A good reason to fire up the oven!

  3. This is one of my very favorite breads!!

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Deborah. I love all the recipes from Zoe's book!

  5. Mmm! Nothing beats a "to-die-for" homemade bread (cheese and wine certainly seals the deal :). I've just started diving into Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett - made my first 'successful' loaf earlier this week. ~Happy bread-dance!

    Thanks for your sweet as ever comments on my 101 Food Words page over at Squidoo...nice, nice.

    1. So happy you stopped by, Correen. I agree that homemade bread is "Happy Dance" bread! I'll have to check out that Kneadlessly Simple book!

  6. Your loaf looks just perfect, Cheryl. Don't you love the sense of accomplishment when a loaf like this turns out so well? I love all kinds of baking, but there's something about having success with this type of yeast bread that really makes a gal feel like she can do anything, don't you think? It's the greatest. :)

    (P.S. Many thanks for "pinning" that bundt cake I made. I am very flattered you did that!)

    1. I DO love the sense of accomplishment that baking give me, Jane. Thank you for visiting my blog and you're most welcome for the "pin". That bundt cake was simply gorgeous.

    2. Um, that sentence should have read...sense of accomplishment that baking gives me...I hate it when I see a typo AFTER I've published a comment or a post - gah!

  7. Impossible to ruin? I like the sound of that. I may actually try it. I am so afraid to make bread.

    1. Honestly, Andrea, you will love it, I'm sure...let me know.