Friday, January 13, 2012

Homemade Artisan Bread

No-knead artisan breads seem to be all the rage these days. I've come across a number of different recipes for no-knead bread in the past couple of months. I was using one recipe, but I found that the crust was always a little too crispy for my taste, even with under-baking a bit. One of my professors, Dr. Ed Taylor, bakes most of his own bread. He has brought warm bread into class several times, and it is delicious! I got the recipe from him last weekend and made it tonight to go along with some slow-cooker lasagna. This recipe makes four loaves, and you can store the extra dough for up to two weeks in the fridge. So with just a little bit of prep time, you can have everything you need for four loaves of fantastic bread - soft on the inside with a crispy-chewy crust. I'm excited to try some variations - maybe some fresh herbs or cinnamon and raisins. We had it with butter tonight, but I would also like to try it with some herb-infused olive oil. I think it would also work great for French toast or panini.

6.5 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast
3 cups warm water

In a large bowl, mix the ingredients together until well combined and form the dough into a big ball. (I mixed first with a wooden spoon and then my hands.) Let rise two hours, covered with a towel. Be sure it's not in a cold or drafty place. After two hours, split the dough into four even balls (use flour on your hands and/or the dough to make it easier to handle). Wrap three of the balls in plastic wrap and store in a zip-lock in the fridge for up to two weeks. (When baking bread from the dough in the fridge, let the dough come to room temperature for about 40 minutes before baking.)

Place a pizza stone on a rack positioned in the middle of the oven. On the top rack, place a pan of water for a water bath; this will create steam, which will help the bread brown and stay moist. (I used a 9-inch cake pan.) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

With floured hands, take the fourth dough ball and shape into a loaf. I placed mine on a well-floured pizza peel. When the oven is preheated, carefully move the dough from the peel onto the heated stone. Bake for 30 minutes at 450. Remove from the oven. Let bread sit for 5-10 minutes after baking before cutting.