Basic Artisan Bread Recipe

Reader Contribution by Jonathan Sadowski
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There are many different recipes available to the home bread maker that are simple.  Finding the right one makes fresh, tasty, timely homemade bread a reality no matter how busy one’s schedule is.  The recipe below is what keeps the bread popping out of the oven in my house, and is a product of trying several different recipes, proofing techniques, and dough storage.  It is also very simple, yet allows plenty of room for experimentation; substituting different types of flour and/or adding spices can open the door to a new world of tastes, while keeping prep and cooking times to a minimum.

Again, the beauty of this recipe is its simplicity.  I have been using it for six years, and keep finding ways to make it different and exciting.  Enjoy.

Basic Artisan Bread Recipe

Tools: Large bowl with non-airtight cover (I usually use a dish cloth), wooden spoon, cookie sheet, pizza stone.

6 1/2 cups white, unbleached, all-purpose flour

4 cups warm water
1 1/2 tbsp (1 pkg.) dry active yeast
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 heavy pinches white, unbleached flour

Combine all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl.  Add water slowly, stirring constantly.  Mix the dough until there is no dry flour, all of the water is absorbed, and there are no lumps.

Cover the bowl and let the dough rest at room temperature for at least two hours (note:  the longer the better, but 2 hours is the minimum). After the dough has risen, spread a thin layer of olive oil on a cookie sheet. Take a handful of dough (about the size of a grapefruit) and place it on the cookie sheet and form the dough into the desired shape* (a pinch or three of flour my help prevent the dough from sticking to the cookie sheet or your hands as you shape the loaf).  Cover dough and let it sit for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit with pizza stone in the oven. Uncover preshaped loaf and cut diagonal slices into the top of the dough. Carefully transfer dough onto the pizza stone**. Bake for 24 minutes.

Remove bread for the oven and let it cool for 20-25 minutes***.

Cut a slice of steamy, fresh bread. Eat bread.

* I have not noticed any difference in cooking time, rising time, or anything else regardless of whether I shape my loaf like a boule, baguette, or anything else.  Have fun and get creative with it.

** A pizza peel works great here, but is not necessary.  Simply take the pizza stone out of the oven and place it next to the risen dough, and, as smoothly as possible, lift the loaf onto the stone.

*** The baking process is not complete when the bread is taken out of the oven.  Cooling time is the final phase.

It is important to try this recipe, then try it again, and try it again.  Mistakes will most likely be made on the first, second, and/or third attempt.  Learn from them.  Make changes to fit your tastes.  Try new techniques that easily fit into your daily routine.  This recipe is simple.  Use it to practice, innovate, and discover how home bread-making can fit into your everyday life.