Master Recipe for Artisan Bread
This master recipe makes four loaves of artisan bread.
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 Tbs yeast
- 1 1/2 Tbs salt
- 6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour
- cornmeal for the bread paddle
Put the lukewarm water in a large (5 quart) bowl and stir in the yeast and salt.
Add all of the flour at once and mix by hand or with a dough hook using an electric stand mixer. If you're doing this by hand, you may need to use your hands to get all the flour moist. You don't knead it though. Just mix it together.
Cover with a lid that is not airtight (because the gases will be expanding). Let rise at room temperature for at least 2 hours or refrigerate overnight.
Prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it with cornmeal. Lots of cornmeal so the dough will slide off.
Sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour, then pull off a grapefruit sized piece of dough. About 1 pound if you have a scale.
Hold the ball of dough in your hands and tuck the ends under on each side, then rotate the ball and do that again, and again. Put the dough on the pizza peel and let it rest about 40 minutes.
Twenty minutes before you want to bake, turn your oven to 450 with a baking stone inside on the middle rack. Place an empty lidded baking sheet or broiler pan anywhere else in the oven. This will hold water.
Dust the top of the dough with a bit more flour and then use a serrated bread knife to slash the top. You can use whatever pattern you like: a tic tac toe, a large cross, etc. Cut about 1/4" deep.
Use a quick jerking motion to slide the dough off the peel and onto the baking stone. Then carefully pour a cup of hot water into the empty sheet or broiler pan. Bake about 30 minutes, until the top is browned and firm to the touch. Let cool completely before slicing.
Store the dough in a lidded non-airtight container in the refrigerator and use up over the 14 days. You can also freeze the dough in 1 pound portions in an airtight container or freezer bag. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator the day before you want to bake.