One of my favorite cookbooks that I acquired last year is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The authors promise that anyone can bake a loaf of bread that rivals something from a French bakery in just five minutes of active preparation time. I have made the Challah bread and it turned out superbly. I made this loaf today and I must admit, it really did taste like something from a professional bakery.
The Master Recipe: Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)
Recipe Courtesy of Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
Makes four 1-lb loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Cornmeal for pizza wheel
1. Warm the water slightly to about 100 degrees F.
2. Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart bowl or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container.
3. Mix in the flour – kneading is unnecessary. Mix in a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the mixture is uniform.
4. Allow to rise at room temperature, covered, for 2 hours.
5. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight is best.
6. On baking day, sprinkle a pizza peel with cornmeal. Pull off a 1-pound piece of dough. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
7. Rest the loaf and let it rise on the pizza peel. Allow the loaf to rest on the peel for about 40 minutes.
8. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler pan for holding water on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread.
9. Dust the loaf with flour and slash the loaf with 1/4 inch-deep cross using a serrated knife.
10. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler pan. Slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the preheated baking stone. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned and firm to the touch.
11. Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in a lidded container and use over the next 14 days.