Bread & Water

Well, as promised, I tried the "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" recipe shared by The Ivory Hut. While I'm certainly no Pioneer Woman when it comes to food photography, I did manage to take shots at almost every step of the way.

It's got a nice, crusty crust. You bread lovers out there know what I'm talking about. The bread texture itself was dense, and not what I would've liked from the airy European-style breads, but I think that's just how this bread comes out. "Artisan" is a pretty good descriptor, as it makes me think of crusty crust (yeah, redundant, I know) and hearty texture.

Here's the recipe, with some so-so pictures:

3 cups of lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Grab a very large mixing bowl, or a large container that you can cover. In it, mix the water, yeast, and salt. You don’t even have to heat up the water to a precise optimal temperature for the yeast. I just used regular, lukewarm tap water, and it worked well for me. Just let that sit together for a while (I waited for most of the yeast to dissolve). This picture isn't great, but it shows the yeast starting to do what yeast does in water. You know, the bubbling activity and all that jazz.

Then dump the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon (I used a spoonula) and maybe your hands. You don’t need to knead this, and you’re not looking to make it come together into a dough ball. You just want everything mixed well, with no streaks of flour left, and you’re done.

Leave it in your container, covered (but not airtight, or it’ll pop), for a few hours. When it has risen and then deflated a bit, your dough is done. It’s ready to be used or stored in the refrigerator. Here's my "ready" dough.

To bake the bread, just grab a chunk of dough (they recommend a chunk about the size of a grapefruit, but mine was more like a canteloupe...not an Indiana melon, mind you, just a normal, everyday canteloupe). Dust your hands with flour to help prevent sticking, and gently pull the sides of the dough toward the bottom, rotating the dough, until you get a roundish shape with a smooth surface. It should only take you about a minute or less to do this. The dough won’t be entirely in the bottom, where it may look bunched up, but don’t worry about it.

Put it on a pizza peel (or in my case a cookie sheet) that’s been dusted with cornmeal to prevent sticking, and let it rest for at least 40 minutes. No need to cover it. If the dough has been refrigerated, it helps to let it rest a little more, until it’s no longer chilled.

Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake, put a pizza stone in the middle rack of your oven, and put a broiler pan in the bottom rack. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Dust some flour on the top of your loaf, and make your pretty slashes, about 1/4-inch deep. You can do a simple ‘x’ across it, a tic-tac-toe grid, or the stripes.

After twenty minutes of preheating, it’s time to bake. (You can put the bread in after 20 minutes, even if your oven hasn’t reached 450 degrees yet.) Slide the loaf onto the baking stone, and then quickly (and CAREFULLY, lest you burn yourself like some hapless people I know) pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler pan. Then quickly shut the oven door to keep the steam inside.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until you get a nice brown crust. The crust will crackle and pop and make all sorts of happy noises as it sits on a wire rack to cool. It tastes best when you let it cool completely. Don’t worry if your beautiful crust seems to soften a bit. It will harden again, I promise.

As you can see, I nearly forgot to take a picture of the finished product before we inhaled finished it at dinner.

I made another small loaf and some other experimental shapes with the remainder the next day after the dough had rested in the refrigerator overnight. I'll definitely be trying this recipe again, especially since you can apparently use this recipe to make naan!


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