- 6 and 1/2 cups bread flour
- 3 cups warm water (100 degrees)
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 heaping teaspoons yeast
Is there anything more comforting than a hearty loaf of bread? Hot out the oven? There's just something extra special and rewarding about bread making. I've made it the old fashioned way: kneading the dough for 10-12 minutes then proofing, shaping, proofing again..... Can you imagine my delight when I discovered that many of the steps can be skipped and the outcome would be just as delicious? Well, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois wrote a wonderful cookbook: "The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day". The title says it all. Go and get the book!! Your life will never be the same 🙂
So I incorporated their genius bread making method/technique and tweaked my recipes a bit and VOILA! A perfect match made in heaven! This bread will look and taste like it came hot and fresh out of a gourmet fancy shmancy bakery. Let me tell you, it will be crusty on the outside and soft and comforting on the inside.... Delicious!!! The best thing about this dough is that it keeps in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks and tastes better as it sits. So make sure to make extra. The longer it ferments in the fridge, it develops a lovely sourdough flavor with lots of air bubbles when it bakes.
Also, you can make this recipe really healthy by substituting half of the white flour with whole wheat flour. I actually prefer the whole wheat version more. It's heartier 🙂 Give it a try!
Mix the yeast in the warm water.
Place the flour and the salt in a pot, large bowl or bucket. It should be able to hold 6 quarts. Mix well with a whisk so that the salt gets incorporated.
Add water and yeast mixture and mix with a wooden spoon or with your hands. You do not have to knead this dough. Just mix until everything is incorporated making sure that the dough stays wet and sticky. Add 1/4 cup of water if needed. If you are using half whole wheat flour, you will need to add water.
Once it is all mixed, cover loosely leaving some room for gases to release. Leave it alone to rise, undisturbed for about 2 hours.
Put the container in the refrigerator and let it rest overnight.
The dough will stay fresh up to 14 days. It's a good idea to make a double batch if you plan on making fresh bread often during the week.
When you are ready to bake a fresh loaf of bread, take about a large grapefruit sized ball of dough out from the refrigerated mixture. Form it into a round ball (boule) or a long loaf (French or Italian bread).
Place some semolina flour on a baking sheet and put the formed dough over it. Cover with a towel and set it in the warmest place in your house undisturbed for about 1 hour. It will rise, but not double in size.
Note: If you are making whole wheat bread (which means, you have substituted 3 and 1/2 cups of the white flour for whole wheat flour) then the rest time will be more like 1 and 1/2 hours long.
While the dough is resting and rising, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and place a cast iron skillet on the floor of the oven. Place oven tiles or a pizza stone near the middle of the oven. Make sure that the oven preheats for at least 35 minutes. Longer is better!
Slash the loaf with a few deep cuts (not going too deep like halfway through, more like about 1/2 inch deep). Brush with some water on top.
Place your baking sheet with the bread in it in the oven and pour a glass of ice water into the cast iron skillet that is on the bottom of your oven. This will create steam, so be careful.
Close the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 450 degrees.
Bake for 30 minutes and then remove the bread from the baking pan and place it on the oven stone or pizza stone and bake it for about 5 more minutes or until the bread emits a hollow sound when you knock on the bottom of it. If you do not have a pizza stone, just let it continue to bake in the baking sheet until ready.
Remove from oven when ready and let it rest and cool for 15 minutes before slicing.