Recipe: Easy Artisan Bread

Category: , , / 12/30/2013
One of my first artisan loaves
I love fresh bread. I once at almost an entire baguette in one sitting as a child. I would attempt to do the same thing as an adult, but I can't seem to pack it away like I used to. However, I had a bunch of leftover bread flour from making anpan, and it seemed silly to use it in pancakes. So instead, I decided to jump on the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day trend, and see if it was too good to be true.

How to Start:
  • Although there are numerous books available, I chose to start simple with this recipe from Mother Earth News. I didn't have certain items, such as a baking stone, so I used a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat instead, and the crust was still great. 
  • It takes about 10 minutes to get the dough started, then you have to let it rest. The best part is that there is no kneading!  After the bread has risen, you can have fresh bread in about an hour (40 minutes longer of resting plus about 30 minutes of baking time). The recipe lasted about a week in our house, making one small loaf daily.
Notes:
  • Don't forget to allow time for the bread to cool if timing a loaf to serve hot with a meal.
  • My favorite way to serve this bread was fresh and warm with organic olive oil sprinkled with sea salt. The olive oil helps fill you up so you don't eat so much bread at once, but it is still a higher-calorie option.
  • Make sure to add moisture to the oven in some way. While the recipe specifies using a broiler tray, I didn't have one, so I used a pyrex baking dish filled halfway with water. The one time I didn't use this, the bread cooked faster and the crust was a little too hard for my taste.
  • For a healthier variation, you can use some whole wheat flour. As I didn't have enough quite bread flour for a full second batch, I added some whole wheat pastry flour (about 1/6 of the flour by ratio) and it wasn't very noticeable.
  • For any who were wondering, active yeast is vegan.
Summary:
This recipe tasted amazing, and it required very little "active" time on my part (most of it was letting the bread rise and/or cook while I could be off doing other things). The "master recipe" tasted wonderful and is quite simple to make, but it is really hard to resist the temptation to have fresh bread every day. I think if I make this again, I will have to keep it as a special treat. Otherwise, I won't be able to resist the temptation of having fresh bread on hand, especially since I love to read fantasy books where they always seem to be eating fresh, crusty loaves like these.

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