While turning out artisan-style loaves of bread from your kitchen may seem unattainable, it's really much simpler than you might think. Using a method pioneered by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe François, authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, it is easier to make your own bread than it is to go to the store and buy it. Really. A large batch of dough is mixed, not kneaded, and hours later you are ready to bake. It's as simple as that. You never need to knead the dough, there is no starter to feed, and the dough just keeps getting better, even days after you first mix it. Use the initial batch within two weeks, scrape down the container, and add the new batch right to the crusty dough left behind. Your bread will continue to improve in flavor and texture as time goes by and take on the unmistakable tang of good sourdough. This recipe can be easily doubled or even tripled to accommodate the needs of your family, but make sure your container is big enough to allow for the dough to rise.
- Mix yeast, salt and water in a large, lidded vessel, like a one gallon size pantry storage container. Add the flour all at once and mix with a wooden spoon or your hand until flour is incorporated and completely wet. It will be a sticky, clumpy mess, but the most important thing is that it is evenly moist.
- Cover loosely with the lid (do not clamp down the lid or it could explode), and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours. It will rise significantly during this time. You can bake the bread immediately now, but the sticky dough is much easier to handle if it has been refrigerated first.
- Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours. When ready to bake, remove dough from the fridge and sprinkle the top with flour. Using your hand, grab out a portion of dough that is approximately the size of a large grapefruit. You will have 3 loaves of dough for each batch this way. Dusting with more flour as necessary so it won't stick to your hands, carefully roll the dough into a ball by stretching the top and tucking the dough into itself on the bottom. The bottom will look like a lot of clumpy ends, but it will smooth out as it sits. This process gets much easier with practice. Don't worry if your dough isn't perfectly round, a rustic look is perfectly acceptable, even preferable.
- Set the dough on a heavily floured sheet of parchment paper, cover with a clean dish towel and let it rest for 40 minutes. Return the rest of the dough to the fridge, loosely covered, for another day.
- 20 minutes before you are ready to bake preheat the oven, preferably with a pizza stone in the middle rack (but this is not absolutely necessary), to 450 degrees.
- Uncover the bread dough, sprinkle liberally with flour and score the top with a sharp knife in a tic-tac-toe or cross pattern. Carefully slide the dough (still on the parchment) onto the pizza stone using a wooden pizza peel. Alternately, place the dough (still on the parchment) onto a large baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the crust is a deep, golden brown and bread is hollow sounding when thumped on the bottom. Remove from oven, and serve warm or at room temperature.
Find more recipes from Alison Needham on Family.com, or visit her blog at www.agirlamarketameal.com.