Crusty Artisan Bread

I wanted to jot down that I have FINALLY made a good (possibly great) yeast bread.  And to add insult to injury, it was the EASIEST recipe I’ve ever tried in my life!  Scroll Down for variations like Orange Cranberry and Pizza Dough!

*I need to preface and qualify this posting with a warning.  If you cannot make this bread, you are a failure at life (I kid).  I’m sorry to be the one to tell you but I have tried and failed miserably with yeast breads all my life.  They have been that one thing that I go back to year after year and think maybe, just maybe this will be the time I succeed and make something that’s not too flour-y tasting, too dense, too doughy, too mealy.  This is the first and only perfect yeast bread I’ve ever made AND it was my first attempt at this recipe.  I’ve never, ever made this bread before tonight!  There are other breads that I have tried over and over for days in a row thinking a bootcamp scenario would be fruitful.  Never was.  If you hate yeast breads or find yourself a failure, give this one a try.  You may just renew your faith in yourself like I did!  I can’t wait to make this as gifts so people think I’m some amazing baker!  lol!

Dump the dry ingredients into a bowl.  Give them a quick stir (don’t sweat it too much. I totally forgot this part this morning).  Dump in the water.  Stir to combine.  Cover the bowl (NOT the dough like you would with some breads) with plastic wrap and leave it alone till you wake up in the morning (or make this first thing in the morning to have a hot bread with dinner)

  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water
Let the ingredients do their thing for at least 12 hours.  When you wake up, set your oven to 450 and get a large pot ready.
The source for this used a LeCreuset enameled pot.  I don’t have anything so nice so I used my glass casserole/roasting pan.  You need SOMETHING with a lid.  If you’re using glass like me, I strongly recommend you put it into a cold oven and let it warm with the oven so you don’t shock the glass.
So, what I did was toss the dish and lid into the oven, let it preheat to 450, then set the timer for 30 minutes.  If using metal, you would just preheat then toss in the dish and set the timer.  As soon as your 30 minutes starts, dump your dough out onto a HEAVILY floured surface.  I cannot stress that enough!  This stuff is STICKY!  There’s no such thing as too much flour when working with it.  Flour your hands heavily as well and form it into a roundish (or oval if using an oval pot) shape then cover with the plastic wrap you used on your bowl.  When your 30 minutes is up, take out your dish, drop the dough ball inside, put the lid back on, and put it all back in the oven for 30 minutes.  That’s it!  In 30 minutes you will have some of the best crusty, artisan bread you’ve ever tasted!
Now, look back up at those ingredients and tell me you can get a better loaf at the store for what this bread would cost you!  uh huh…exactly!
I’m going to be making this bread often.  And in many variations, I’m sure.  So I’ll do my best to keep my adventures updated.
Adjustments:
  • Reduced the salt to 1.5 tsp.  The first batch was a little on the salty side.  Especially if you intend to eat it with anything salty.

Variations:

  • Cranberry/Orange
    • Dry Ingredients (reduced salt to 1 tsp)
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (about half a bag of Crasins)
    • 2 Oranges
    • 2 tbsp sugar

Zest the oranges then juice them.  Pour the juice over the dried cranberries to re-moisten them.  Let that sit for at least half an hour.  It’ll keep the berries from absorbing too much moisture out of the dough and keep them from drying out even more during baking.  When ready to make the dough, strain the juice back off and then add water until you reach the 1.5 cups required for the recipe (we don’t want the orange juice to make the dough too wet but we’re not gonna waste all that flavor by pouring it out, either).  Dump in your cranberries, zest, and orange water, stir it up, then leave it till it’s time to bake.

Ok, baked this bread last night.  Had a taste last night and again this morning.  It’s SO GOOD!  mmmmmm!  The texture of the zest was where it should be (not too much) but the flavor was VERY subtle.  The cranberries, on the other hand, came out just as I’d hoped.  They are so juicy!  And they burst in your mouth with cranberry and orange brightness!  I LOVE IT!  It made for an excellent breakfast!  And tomorrow I’ll probably toast some with butter and honey.  mmmmmmm!

  • Pizza Dough
    • Take the basic recipe:
      • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
      • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
      • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
      • 1 1/2 cups water (see note on oil below before adding water)

      and add:

      • 1/3 cup olive oil (I pour a little oil into the measuring cup then add water until I reach the 1.5 cups mentioned above.  Do not add an extra 1/3 cup on top of the above amount)
      • 2-3 tbsp sugar
Tried a Raisin Cinnamon version.  It was OK.  I need to tweak some things before I post a recipe for it.  But it’ll be posted eventually.  I also did a cheddar/garlic/herb version.  I didn’t care for it but hubby devoured the whole loaf.  It’s an easy base to play with.  I hope you guys enjoy it!