Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Artisan Bread (no kneading at all)

This one is even easier than the soft bread just looks like more! SOOOO yummy

Artisan Bread

3 c. warm water
1 & 1/2 Tbsp salt (kosher or sea salt is recommended, but not necessary)
1 & 1/2 Tbsp yeast
6 c. flour

Supplies You Will Need

pizza stone (or overturned baking sheet)
cutting board or rimless cookie sheet (or pizza peel!)
broiler pan or shallow pan
2 c. water
serrated knife
extra flour

Combine warm water and salt and yeast, stir to combine. Add 6 c. of flour and stir either by hand, food processor, or mixer until mixture is evenly combined/moist. Dough will be sticky. DO NOT KNEAD; just make sure the dough is moist throughout and that's good enough--it doesn't take long at all. Cover LOOSELY in a large container or bowl (I used saran wrap, but make sure you grease the top of the saran wrap as mixture can rise high and stick to the plastic wrap...don't ask how I know! ;)), leaving a little space for the gases to escape. Allow mixture to rise for at least 2 hours, up to 5 hours. At this point you can work with the dough, but it will be REALLY sticky. A better method is to refrigerate the dough for 2 or 3 hours and then it is MUCH easier to work with (again, don't ask me how I know! ;)).

Now is when things get easy. The above mixture will make about 4 1-pound loaves of bread, so when you're ready to bake, take a small handful of flour and sprinkle it on top of the dough mixture. Then remove 1/4 of the mix, which will be about the size of a grapefruit. It'll look really small, but it really bakes up. You'll want to dust the chunk of dough with a little bit of flour. Remember, don't KNEAD the dough, all you have to do is pull the dough from the top and kind of fold it under the bottom so you have a round loaf. Then set it on a rimless cookie sheet that is liberally sprinkled with cornmeal. Now you let the bread rest for 40 minutes.

But WAIT! Put the remaining mixture into the refrigerator--it will last for up to 2 weeks. Just continue the same process in the future--when you want a chunk of dough, sprinkle all the dough with a bit of flour, then remove a grapefruit-size chunk, and refrigerate remaining dough.) After 20 minutes, preheat your oven to 450 degrees and put a pizza stone (or an upside down cookie sheet if you don't have a stone) on the middle rack. Place a broiler pan or shallow pan on the very top rack of the oven, making sure there's enough room for your bread to rise while it bakes. (I actually had to move my bread-baking rack to the bottom rack, which worked out just fine.) Allow the pizza stone to heat up for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes, your bread has now had a chance to rest for 40 minutes. It won't necessarily look like it's risen at all. No big deal. Now you sprinkle the top of your loaf of bread with flour--be generous. Then take a serrated knife and slash the top of the bread, about 1/4" in depth. I just slashed it like a cross or an "x." The flour allows you to slash the bread even though it's very sticky.

At this point you are ready to put your bread in your hot oven on the hot stone. Taking your cookie sheet, with a quick forward shake of your wrist, the dough should slide off and onto the pan. (It takes a little first loaf had one section where it stuck to the cookie sheet, so my loaf was slightly oblong rather than round...still tastes good no matter what shape the bread is though! That's why you want to be liberal with the sprinkling of cornmeal!) As soon as you get the dough on the stone, pour 2 cups of water into the shallow pan you have on your top rack and shut the door quickly so the steam stays in the oven. Now you bake your bread for 30 minutes. Because this is a high-moisture bread, no matter how dark the crust gets (and mine got to be a very deep golden color--not brown, nice and golden), the inside will remain super soft and you don't have to worry about it drying out.

When the bread is finished, take it out of the oven and let it cool on a cooling rack. (We did not let it cool last night--couldn't wait!) The crust will be super crispy. As it starts to cool, some of the crispiness might decrease, but once it is fully cooled, the crispy crust returns.

Once you try this, you will realize how flavorless other breads are that you have made. Not necessarily dinner rolls, but breads--it's the crust that gives it so much flavor and crunch, yet the inside is so amazingly soft, you won't believe it!

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