Rustic Artisan Bread

Rustic Artisan Bread Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois 

This recipe will yield about 4 one pound loaves of bread.

Master Recipe Ingredients:

–          3 cups warm water (approx. 100⁰ F)

–          2 ½ teaspoons of yeast (active dry)

–          2 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt

–          6 ½ cups of flour (all-purpose, unbleached)

–          Optional: 2 Tablespoons (or to taste) herbs (e.g. basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc.)

When Ready to Bake:

–          ¼ cup cornmeal

–          3-4 cups of boiling water

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl (4 quarts).  There is no need to “proof” the yeast as long as it is still before the listed expiration date.  You can also use the bowl you plan to let the dough rise in.  This saves you a little cleanup at the end.

To get the right temperature for the water, fill a 4 cup or larger measuring cup with 1 ½ cups of hot water from the faucet and another 1 ½ cups of cold water from the faucet.  Gently stirring these two together will produce the desired temperature.

While stirring the dry ingredients, pour in the 3 cups of water and continue stirring until everything has been incorporated into the dough.  This dough will be “wetter” than your typical bread dough.  The higher moisture content will produce a “spring” or spontaneous rising in the oven.  This is pretty fun to experience.  J

Let dough rise for a couple of hours in a plastic container.  Cover with a lid, but do not seal the container.  This dough can also be kept in the refrigerator for about a week.  Just let the dough rest for about 40 minutes prior to baking when cold.

When ready to bake, generously sprinkle cornmeal on a baking pan.  Gently flour hands and remove a ball of dough, about the size of a softball, or grapefruit.  While holding the dough in one hand, use the other hand to stretch/pull the dough from the top of the ball to the bottom.  Rotate ¼ turn and repeat.  Repeat this 4 times to complete the gluten shell.

Place dough on the baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal and let rise for 20 to 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450⁰ F.  Be sure to have whatever pan or baking surface you plan to cook the bread on in the oven while heating.  We prefer to bake ours on a pizza stone.  There is no need to put corn meal on the pizza stone since the dough will have already coated its base while rising. Also, on the lower rack of the oven place a broiling pan.  This is needed for the boiling water.

Just prior to baking, wet the blade of a serrated knife and score the bread (about ¼” in depth) with desired design.  Today, we did a scallop design.

Once oven is heated, quickly slide the dough onto the baking surface.  Next, pour the boiling water into the broiling pan and close the oven door trying to prevent steam from escaping.  This steam is what will give the outside of your bread that crunchy outer layer, while keeping the inside of your loaf soft and springy.  The high moisture content of this dough will also cause the bread to puff up while baking as the moisture is evaporated.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until outside is a rustic brown in color.  This bread is great to eat with just about anything.  My husband and kids like dipping it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar for an in-between meal snack.  Enjoy!

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