artisan bread for the not-quite artisan
I swear I want to write about more things than bread, but recently it seems that is all I’ve been making and I haven’t posted about it because I’ve been baking the same milk bread from the previous post over and over again. Yes, it’s that good. And the more I bake it the more ‘yeasty’ my kitchen becomes, which I read somewhere makes the bread have more flavor, or rise more, or something like that. Better crumb, maybe? Because my sandwich bread now has awesome crumb. (That’s like “mouthfeel” for breadeaters).
Anyway…I WAS going to make a dessert to take to a birthday party I went to last night. I’ve been inspired by this article (ok, it is on Martha Stuart Weddings, but I got linked there, I promise!) to make super pretty French macarons. Apparently, French macaroons are totally different than what we think of (ie coconut) and you can fill the with buttercream and dye them with food coloring. More on this later because I will try to make these, hopefully soon!
But, the invite for the birthday party said that “There shall be drinks, cake, cake, cake, and cake… and some food,” so I thought it might be overkill to bring “manhattan bourbon cupcakes,” something I’ve also wanted to try for a while. What does everyone like besides cupcakes? Bread! I bookmarked a recipe a while ago from a blog called The Salty Spoon. And I thought this would be a good time to try it out as an intro into ‘artisan’ bread.
This recipe calls for no kneading, actually nothing at all fancy. It’s super easy: mix the ingredients, let rise, form into loaves, let sit, bake! And I’m really impressed with how well the bread turned out, and people seemed to enjoy it! It’s great “tear off a piece and dip in olive oil” bread. It wasn’t as “hole-y” or as crusty as some “artisan” bread and the pictures on Salty Spoon, but I’ll get there. Also, my slits didn’t open as wide. But it was great for a first attempt. G, there’s a loaf waiting for you whenever you finally make it home (boo delta). Because you were traveling, the pictures aren’t as good, but Ray Ray did make a pretty good cooking partner.
simple artisan bread
adapted from The Salty Spoon’s “Artisan Bread, d/b/a Lazy Bread”
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
6 1/2 cups flour, and extra for dusting/decorating
3 cups warm water (let the tap run for a bit, it doesn’t have to be too hot)
A little bit of butter for greasing
Cornmeal (optional–see directions for the cookie tray and “garnishing” the bread)
Mix the yeast, salt, and water in the bowl of a mixer and let sit for a minute. Note: if you want to do this by hand just find a large mixing bowl and mix with a spoon. Add three cups of the flour and mix on “stir” or low with the mixing paddle (not the dough hook). Add the flour a cup at a time until you add it all. Mix till blended. The dough will be very sticky, but don’t worry! It will work! With a spatula scrap down the sides of the bowl. Cover with a clean towel and put it in a place to rise for 2 hours. I put it in my oven after I’ve let it run for about 30 seconds, since it’s not summer yet. I think 80 degrees is probably ideal.
After it’s risen for two hours (it should double in bulk), grease a cookie sheet with butter and cover it with flour (Salty Spoon suggests parchment paper and cornmeal..I didn’t do this since I have neither). Then scrape the dough out onto a different floured surface, like a cutting board. At this point it will really help to also flour your hands. Make a mess! Divide the dough into three parts and form each into an oval loaf. I followed Salty Spoon’s suggestion to form the loaf by holding the dough in my fingers and pulling some of the dough out from the bottom and folding it over the top of the loaf. I think though all you need is to get them into loaves. After you make each one place it on the cookie sheet. They should be as far apart as you can make them. I didn’t have enough room on my cookie sheet and they were too close (they keep rising) but I would just separate them and tuck the extra dough underneath as they rose. Also, they got stuck together while baking but it turn out fine because I just twisted them apart. Not a problem at all, but if you have a big cookie sheet, definitely use it.
Once the three loaves are on the sheet, cover with a clean towel and let sit on the counter. They should sit there for 40 minutes, but after 20 minutes of this time is up, it’s time to preheat the oven. Take the two oven racks and put one on the bottom and one in the middle. Put a cast iron skillet or broiler pan (I used cast iron) on the lower rack and preheat the over to 450 degrees. You want the skillet to get really hot before the bread goes in the oven.
After about 20 minutes, uncover the bread and dust with flour (or lightly dust with cornmeal as an alternative–again, I didn’t do this, and the flour was great!). Make two or three diagonal slashes across each loaf with a sharp knife. Get a cup of hot water, and after you put the loaves in the oven, pour the water into the cast iron skillet and shut the door quickly. This creates steam, and don’t open it again until the bread is done, which should be 30 minutes (it took mine 35 minutes…you can just pull the out after 30 and tap the bottom of one to see if the sound hollow). Don’t cut until they cool for a bit. Then eat them!