If my recipes were not easy already…I have made baking Artisan Bread at home even easier with one small ingredient. A porcelain covered baker! World Market carries the perfect White Oval Covered Baker and the price is right, $14.99. Using the baker eliminates the need for a couche or peel, because you let the dough rise right in the baker. Allowing the dough to rise in the baker also produces the maximum height for these breads. The baker goes right into the preheated oven without the need for preheating the baker. Plus the cover traps steam during the initial cooking so you don’t need to steam the oven, and you will still end up with that crunchy crust on your Artisan Bread.
I have found that you can bake either a 18/19 ounce dough ball (1/3 recipe), or a 28/29 ounce dough ball (1/2 recipe) in this 2-quart covered baker. In the recipes where it says to sprinkle semolina/cornmeal on the peel, simply sprinkle the semolina/cornmeal onto the bottom of the covered baker. If you wish, you can grease the sides of the baker with a bit of oil, but I found it is not necessary. Just run a knife along the sides to release the baked loaf. It rarely sticks. BTW, the 29 ounce loaf is perfect for sandwiches because of it’s awesome height. The pictures below are from my new sourdough recipe using a 29 ounce dough ball (1/2 recipe), baked in the porcelain covered baker.
Drop dough ball into prepared baker, then cover.
After 100 minute rise in baker.
After 30 minutes at 450 F covered.
After 15 minutes at 450 F uncovered then 5 more minutes with the oven off.
This is how nicely the 1/2 recipe loaf rises.
Anyone for a slice?
The pictures below are from my new sourdough recipe using a 18 ounce dough ball (1/3 recipe), baked in the porcelain covered baker. Notice the baking times (at 450F) are just slightly different for the smaller loaf.
Drop dough ball onto prepared covered baker
Finished baking for 25 minutes covered, 15 minutes uncovered, and 5 minutes with oven off.
Artisan: “a person or company that makes a high-quality or distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods” Why bother? All that mixing and kneading in bread making seems pretty difficult. Besides, who has time to make bread anyway. It never turns out the way I expect it should…well, I put all these arguments to rest! Making great tasting bread is easier than you think!
The best reason for making your own bread is your own health! Store bought breads, including breads made in bakeries, are full of ingredients that are not food – like chemical dough conditioners, added sugars (including high fructose corn syrup), artificial flavorings or coloring and GMOs. Flour can be treated with any of the 60 different chemicals approved by the FDA before it ends up on store shelves, including chemical bleach! It only takes 4 ingredients to make bread – flour, yeast, water and salt. Choosing the very best ingredients will result in the very best bread!
Flour – King Arthur’s Unbleached All-Purpose is the base flour I use in all my recipes. It is certified non-GMO, and it is milled without added chemicals. Just one of the reasons why it is higher in protein and eliminates the need for using bread flour. I also use KA 100% Whole Wheat flour, and specialty flours from Arrowhead Mills – such as rye, or spelt.
Yeast – I use only Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise yeast. Proofing is not necessary when using this quality yeast. I buy it in bulk 1-pound packages. Much cheaper that way. I also store it in the freezer.
Water – filtered tap water will do just fine unless it is chlorinated. Then I suggest using bottled water. Hard water should also be avoided.
Salt – Sea salt is the only salt I use. Kosher would be fine too. Avoid iodized salt!
Sugar – Although not necessary in making bread, I do add a small amount. Sugar is like junk food for yeast. A little sugar gets the yeast to perform better. I use Organic Barley Malt Syrup, organic molasses, or evaporated cane juice; depending on the recipe.
After several months of reading bread making books, including “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day”, and trying many recipes – I have finally put together a formula that produces the very best Artisan Loaf, with the least amount of effort. This is especially true if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook. Although kneading is not necessary, you will still need to mix the dough to bring it to a uniform consistency. This takes only 5 minutes in a stand mixer, but 15 minutes if you mix it by hand. The beauty of my recipe is, you will need to do this only once in 12 days to produce 3 loaves of bread during that same period of time. However you may need to do this more often because the bread you make will disappear fast!
Start with the Master Recipe below, making Boules or free-form loaves. Although my recipe says to rest the dough on a pizza peel, I use a baker’s couche because it allows the loaf to rise vertically. You could also use a proofing bowl to shape the dough.
To make the preferment: Combine the yeast and sugar in the water and stir.
Add flour and mix until the flour is hydrated. Cover the bowl with plastic
wrap and leave the preferment at room temperature for 8-10 hours or
To make the final dough: Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart heavy-duty stand mixer bowl.
Don't worry about trying to dissolve the yeast. Add all of the flour at
once along with the entire preferment and begin mixing using a the dough
hook until the mixture is uniform. You're finished when everything is
uniformly moist, without dry patches. Kneading the dough is not necessary.
This step is done in a matter of minutes, and will yield a dough that is
wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.
Transfer dough to a resealable, lidded plastic food container or
food-grade bucket. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it
begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), approximately 2
hours, depending on the room’s temperature and the initial water
temperature. Refrigerate the dough, at this point, at least overnight
before using. Refrigerating the dough overnight makes it much easier to
When ready to bake your first loaf, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it
liberally with cornmeal or semolina to prevent your loaf from sticking to
it when you slide it into the oven. Sprinkle the surface of your
refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 19 ounce
(grapefruit-size) piece of dough, using a serrated knife. Hold the mass of
dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't
stick to your hands. Gently stretch the top surface of the dough around to
the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but
it will flatten out and adhere during resting and baking. The correctly
shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process
should take no more than 30 to 60 seconds.
Place the shaped ball on the cornmeal-covered pizza peel. Allow the loaf
to rest on the peel for about 90 minutes (it doesn't need to be covered
during the rest period). Depending on the age of the dough, you may not
see much rise during this period; more rising will occur during baking
After 90 minutes, preheat the oven to 500 °F, with a baking stone placed
on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any
other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread. Unless otherwise
indicated in a specific recipe, dust the top of the loaf liberally with
flour, which will allow the slashing knife to pass without sticking. Slash
a ¼-inch-deep cross,
After 30 minute preheat, you're ready to bake. With a quick forward
jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto
the preheated baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour about 1 cup of hot
water from the tap into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap
the steam. Bake for about 5 minutes; then lower temp to 450 F and bake for
30 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch.
Because you've used wet dough, there is little risk of drying out the
interior, despite the dark crust. When you remove the loaf from the oven,
it will audibly crackle, or “sing,” when initially exposed to
room-temperature air. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire
cooling rack, for best flavor, texture, and slicing. The perfect crust may
initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled.
Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in your lidded (not
airtight) container and use it over the next 10 days: You'll find that
even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. This
maturation continues over the 14-day storage period. Refrigerate unused
dough in a lidded storage container (again, not airtight). Cut off and
shape more loaves as you need. The dough can also be frozen in 19 ounce
portions in an airtight container and defrosted overnight in the
refrigerator prior to baking day.
Here are some variations you can try with the master recipe:
Artisan Rye – Substitute the malt syrup for molasses in the preferment. In the final dough replace 2 cups of AP flour with 2 cups of rye flour. Also add an additional tablespoon of molasses to the final dough recipe.
Irish Guinness & Fennel Rye – Using the Artisan Rye recipe above, replace the 12 ounces of water in the final dough with Guinness Extra Stout beer and add one tablespoon of fennel seeds to final dough recipe.
Beer & Cheese Bread – In the Master Recipe final dough replace the water with 12 ounces of amber beer. Instead of forming the loaf into a boule, press the dough out into a large rectangle. Sprinkle the top of the dough with one cup of shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese. Roll the dough and seal the seam. Then tuck and seal the edges. Allow to rise on peel or in couche. Before putting in oven, make one 1/4 inch expansion slit down the entire loaf. Sprinkle top of loaf with 1/2 cup of grated Asiago cheese. Bake as usual.
Note – you could add some finely chopped garlic and or fresh herbs to the above recipe. Just mix them with the grated cheddar cheese before spreading on loaf.
Artisan Rustic Bread – Use the Artisan Rye Bread recipe above, but replace one cup of rye with one cup of stoneground whole wheat.