Have you ever found yourself in the bakery section of the grocery store, trying to decide between the $2 French bread and the $5 artisan bread? I love the taste of the $5 bread with the fancy Italian name, but really the $2 bread is the one that is in my budget to serve with my family’s dinner that night. Even if we only had the fancy bread one night a week, that’s $20 out of our monthly grocery budget, just on bread. What if I told you that you could easily make artisan bread for less than $1 a loaf?
Some friends turned me on the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and I was instantly hooked! I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make my own bread at home. In fact, it’s so easy that it’s harder for me to pack up my kids, drag them to the supermarket and endure their constant pleas for things we don’t need than to quickly whip up a loaf of fresh-baked artisan bread at home. The best part is that very few ingredients and supplies are needed.
The basic recipe is just five ingredients that you toss in a big bucket and mix for 1-2 minutes, no joke! Just mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until it’s all combined to make a batch of 4 loaves. You let it rise for about 2 hours on the counter and then put your bucket in the fridge for the next day. Your batch will last up to two weeks in the fridge. As I need it, I cut off a hunk with my kitchen shears and use a little bit of flour to quickly form it into the shape of a loaf. Literally, it takes me two minutes to get it formed up. I let it rest on the counter for about 30 minutes and then bake it off! Voila! No kneading is required.
Besides the basic recipe, this book has so many more recipes inside that are easy, tasty and come together quickly. Some of my favorites are the challah bread, the pecan sticky buns (these taste like Cinnabon!), the raisin loaf and so many more. The authors of the book also have two other titles, Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day , which features whole wheat and healthier version of their 5 minute bread and an Artisan Flatbread and Pizza in 5 minutes a Day for those who love pizzas!
Basic Artisan Recipe
3 cups warm water (about 100 degrees) (use ¼ to ½ cup extra if using King Arthur or other-high protein flour)
1 ½ Tablespoons granulated yeast or 2 packets
1 ½ Tablespoons kosher or coarse salt
6 ½ cups unsifted, unbleached all-purpose flour, measured by scooping and filling
Cornmeal or Parchment paper
Cambro bucket with lid or other 5 quart-sealable container
Pizza peel (this one is my favorite!)
Batch of Dough Preparation (works best if you prepare the dough the day before):
Pour your warm water and yeast in your large-lidded bucket along with the yeast and salt. Add flour, one cup at a time by scooping large spoonfuls into your measuring cup and leveling it off at the top. Do not press it or pack it in. Mix it with a large wooden spoon until the flour is all incorporated. The dough will be fairly wet and loose and will hold the shape of the lidded-container.
Cover the container without entirely sealing it, allowing gasses to escape while rising. Set on the counter to rise for about 2 hours or when the dough starts leveling off. Dough will still be very wet-looking when it is finished rising and leaving it out longer will not harm the dough.
Place your container in the fridge overnight. Dough will be ready after 3 hours, but overnight is best.
On baking day:
Cut a piece of parchment paper the size of your stoneware pan. If you opt to use cornmeal instead of parchment, cover your pizza peel with cornmeal. Sprinkle a somewhat liberal amount of flour on top of your dough in the container. Lift a piece with your hands and cut off a one-pound portion (about the size of a grapefruit) with kitchen shears or a knife. Add flour to your hands if the dough is sticky and gently stretch the sides of the dough around to the bottom, rotating slightly as you go, forming a ball. All of your loose ends will be underneath your ball (no kneading is required). Most of the loose flour will fall off as it’s not meant to be mixed into your dough. This entire process is only meant to take 1-2 minutes! Allow your loaf to rest, uncovered on the parchment or on the cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 40 minutes
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees for 20 minutes before baking with your baking stone inside the oven. Place an empty metal broiler or other metal baking pan on the shelf below your stone, inside the oven. Dust the surface of your loaf with flour and slash it ¼ deep across in a cross pattern or in about 4 stripes, about a few inches apart.
Boil 1 cup of water in the microwave. Gently using your pizza peel, slide your loaf onto the baking stone, in the oven. Quickly, pour the one cup of boiling water into the pan below your baking stone and quickly shut the oven to trap steam in your oven. The boiling water will help steam the bread while baking.
Bake about 30 minutes or until the crust is brown and the bread is firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack until your loaf is completely cool and slice with a serrated knife.
The remainder of your dough may be stored for up to 14 days in the fridge. Just cut off a loaf as you need it!
The following photos will show how to prepare a “boule” or round-shaped loaf. I also show a large baguette-shape, unbaked loaf and a finished ciabatta. This dough is very versatile and can be used in many shapes and sizes. For the full instructions on the many uses of this dough and other dough recipes, check out:
The recipe calls for unbleached flour, water, salt and yeast. My Target carries King Arthur flour for about $3.60 a bag and it’s my favorite. I buy my yeast in a large, sealed package from Costco for about $3.99 and it lasts all year in a sealed container.
Pour in water and yeast.
Add other ingredients to your water and yeast.
Mix with a wooden spoon until all of the flour is incorporated. Don’t worry about making it perfect.
Your dough will look like this after 2 hours of rising on the counter. The top of the risen dough will flatten out.
Cut off a one-pound hunk with your kitchen shears or knife. Your piece will be about the size of small grapefruit for a boule. You can make other shapes and sizes too by adjusting how much you cut and baking times.
With dusting flour on your hands, slowly form your ball by pulling the sides of the dough and tucking them underneath the bottom of the dough to form your “boule” or round- shaped bread.
**The following photos are not “boule” or round-shaped loaves. I want to show you how versatile this recipe can be! **This is an oversized-baguette that I allowed to rest and slashed before baking.
My family loves Ciabatta bread. This is a finished Ciabatta, ready for dinner tonight!
Looking for more great recipes, check out more recipes here.