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Photo by quinn.anya

Susanna Donato joined the artisan bread revolution for the way to really make the easiest and best bread.

Yes, it’s simple. You just need the right recipe. This one comes from the Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day cookbook, and this is how I do it.

Mixing day:

1. Get a container that can hold several quarts of dough. My container’s square dimensions mean it takes up little space in the fridge.

Photo and Feature Photo by author

Add ingredients as follows:

  • 3 cups of warm water (about 750 ml)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of yeast (about 37 ml)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt (about 37 ml)
  • 6 1/2 cups of flour (about 780 g).

The recipe calls for all-purpose flour. I usually bake bread with bread flour, which is a higher-protein flour that typically makes longer strands of gluten, and I like a little bit of whole-grain tooth. For this recipe, I’ve generally been using 1 cup of whole wheat flour (ours is stone-ground and quite rough), 1 1/2 cups of bread flour, and 4 cups of all-purpose flour. Experiment with mixtures you like.

2. Stir up the ingredients until everything is damp. If you live in a dry climate and your flour seems exceptionally dry, add a little bit more water (a couple of tablespoons). Don’t worry about being super thorough — overmixing isn’t necessary. This should take about 2 minutes.

3. Leave it on the counter for a couple of hours if you want to bake immediately. If not, put it in the refrigerator. Overnight is good. A full day is great. Up to a week or two should be OK. This is what it will look like after it’s been chilling and rising:

Note: For those with small refrigerators, you can divide the recipe in half, let the dough rise on the counter, and bake it immediately so you don’t give up valuable refrigerator space to the dough. Or collaborate with neighbors and share a big batch!

Baking day:

1. Get the dough out of the fridge. You’ll want a nice, peaceful, nonstick surface for your dough to rise on. I like to use a Silpat mat — it is nonstick, nontoxic, reusable, heat safe, and flexible for easy dough-dumping. (I got mine 10 years ago at New York Cake & Pastry, which is stamped on the mat, making them a useful souvenir of my time cooking in NYC.) If you don’t have a Silpat, you can use the counter, a towel or a small plate or cutting board.

2. Dust your rising surface with a good coat of flour. Any kind will do.

3. Pull off a hunk of dough. Some guidelines: A piece the size of a grapefruit is about a pound (450 g). A piece the size of a cantaloupe is about 1 1/2 lbs (675 g). I use a piece probably closer to 2 pounds (900 g) — the size of a really big cantaloupe, or maybe a somewhat petite honeydew. You can use a knife, too, but mine usually tears easily and doesn’t require cutting.

Set the dough on the floured surface. Flour your hands. Shape the wad of dough into a round loaf just like this:

4. Cover the dough with a towel and let it nap for a while. How long it rises will depend on how warm your kitchen is. An hour is sufficient if it’s warm (75-80F/25C and up). My kitchen is usually freezing (60-62F/16C), so I leave it out 2 to 3 hours.

5. About 25 minutes before you want to start baking the bread, put your covered heatproof pan in the oven and turn the oven on to very hot (450F/232C). (My pan is a Williams-Sonoma covered cast-iron Dutch oven skillet that my co-worker Jill, God bless her, gave me in 1992.) I like to put the pan in the oven when I start the bread rising, long before I turn the oven on; otherwise, I am prone to forget it and just heat the oven sans pan.

6. When the oven is preheated, uncover your dough. It doesn’t look too much different — just a little bit taller, softer and more refreshed after its rising “nap.”

7. I bend the edges of the Silpat around the dough to shake as much flour close to the dough as I can to minimize the mess. Take the pan out of the oven (careful! It’s SO hot) and remove the lid.

Photo by ansik

Carefully dump the dough into the pan. What was the bottom will be on top, with some rough edges showing. That’s OK! It will all work out in the end.

8. Bake for about 30 minutes. Then open the oven, take off the lid, and let the bread keep on baking for about 20 minutes longer. (Those rough edges have made a gorgeous crown on the bread.) Check it after that initial 30 minutes — if your oven is hotter, the bread might not need as much time. It will be done when it is fairly brown on top, quite brown (but not black) on the bottom, and sounds hollow when tapped.

9. It comes out of the oven brown and amazing!

10. Gently (and carefully! — it’s hot) tip the bread out of the pan and let the bread cool completely on a rack.

11. Slice it and enjoy the texture. It should be moist, chewy and crusty — perfect for toast, sandwiches or just scarfing down with butter.

Please note that it has probably taken you almost as long to read this post as to make the bread!

Recipes

 

About The Author

Susanna Donato

Susanna is based in Denver, Colorado, where she writes, knits, cooks, raises her daughter and drinks beer with her husband. She bought a good tent this year to spend more time getting up close with some of the most beautiful places in the US. She covers living well, cheaply and green at her blog Cheap Like Me.

  • http://meganahill.wordpress.com Megan Hill

    yum, butter. thanks for this recipe!

  • http://www.aswetravel.com Sofia – As We Travel

    YUMMBO! oh we are gonna try this tomorrow!! :D

  • joshua johnson

    Bridget, has been baking bread lately and I have to say, homemade bread is waaaaay better than store bought and CHEAP!

  • http://www.theodorescott.com Theodore Scott

    I have been making this bread for years.

    It is great to share, but I think some credit should be given to the people that developed it. This recipe is from a book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It has been the number one bread cookbook on Amazon for over 2 years.

    Their website:
    http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com

    • http://www.cheaplikemeblog.com Susanna

      Hi Theodore – I absolutely want to give full credit – please check out the 2nd sentence of the article, which says the recipe is from the book and links to the site.

      They do, however, give a method in the book for baking on a stone, which isn’t always feasible, and using steam in the oven, which I find to be a hassle, so I converted their recipe/storage method to my former baking method, no-knead bread cooked in a Dutch oven, which was taken long before from a 2006 article by Mark Bittman in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html), based on a method he got from Jim Lahey at the fabulous Sullivan Street Bakery (http://www.sullivanstreetbakery.com/recipes).

      The “Artisan Bread in Five” process is similar, but they expand the volume for storage (brilliant!) and use more yeast for vigorous rise and yeastier flavor. And their book (and blog) lays out how to use the dough in many other recipes.

      There, now hopefully we have ALL our ducks in a row! I didn’t at all intend to claim that I invented the method, just tweaked it and proselytize it!

    • http://www.theodorescott.com Theodore Scott

      Thank you for adding the link to the Artisan in Five website.

      • http://www.cheaplikemeblog.com Susanna

        Truly, it’s been there all along!

        • http://www.theodorescott.com Theodore Scott

          The credit was missing when the editor first posted the article. It was fixed shortly after I made the original comment though. No worries.

        • http://www.thefutureisred.typepad.com/ Leigh Shulman

          Sorry about the confusion Susanna & Theodore.

          The link is there now, but it had been accidentally cut in the original publication because I misunderstood the recipe came from there. As soon as Theodore told me, I added the link.

          Hope everything is sorted now.

  • http://shantiwallah.blogspot.com Marie

    Good on you, Bridget! I’m all for getting people to learn how to make their own bread. Especially Western travellers who just might end up in a non-bread based culture sometime. Japan was my personal bread making tutor. Dutch oven = nabe pot for me.

    I’ve tried a few no-knead bread recipes but this one looks nice and dry to work with (many are really sticky, wet and annoying even if they come out OK in the end). I can’t wait to give it a go!

    • http://www.cheaplikemeblog.com Susanna

      Great point, you CAN take it with you! And adjust the water as you like … it will still work out.

  • Tam

    Mmmmm. Yeah, I’m in China and one of the main things I miss is freshly baked bread. Would love to try this out… but first, I need to get an oven :(

  • http://www.rawr52.blogspot.com Sandy

    I am currently chewing a piece of this that has been slathered in butter. yummmm! My Father is also ecstatic over the fact that there is fresh baked bread (and the accompanying smell!)

  • amellia

    thanks for this! i’ll try it out when i get home in about a months time. no ovens where i am. my fav type of bread is the fluffy-soft texture kind, thats also robust enough to be chewy. yum

  • http://www.wildflowerhikesmontana.com Carolyn – Bozeman, MT

    I have a similar recipe that I found in the Christian Science Monitor. I love making it!
    It’s seems so Zen to me. I made it the first time during a weekend when I had a writer’s workshop retreat at my home . February wind blew outside – inside we ate lots of butter topped bread. Yummy!

  • http://www.thetraveleditor.com Kevin Evans

    Cooking in a dutch oven is interesting – What sort of crust do you get? I’ve been experimenting with steam to get a really crunchy crust – just put a tray of ice cubes in the bottom of the oven for the first half of your cooking time. Also coating the dough with salt water just before baking works good too.

  • http://www.cheaplikemeblog.com Susanna

    Kevin, you get the same kind of crust as from steam in the oven — really crusty and crunchy. That’s because the dough is wet and it steams itself in the Dutch oven. Much easier than steam IMHO.

  • Lynne

    Sounds delicious! I’ll try it today (:

    And if I don’t have a pot with a lid? Will it still work?

  • http://matadortravel.com/traveler/evasandoval EvaSandoval

    Obsessed with this recipe. Can’t wait to try it.

  • http://orangesplaash.blogspot.com Arwa

    Thanks Susanna for sharing this recipe. Hopefully it turns out well in my kitchen too.

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