French Boule - Simple Artisan Bread

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I finally found a bread recipe (NOT using a bread machine) that actually worked for me! I found this lovely book called, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, (check it out here) that makes baking so simple. Here is the master recipe they present in the beginning of the book. They suggest to make the dough and refrigerate it for up to 2 weeks. You can make four 1-pound loaves from that dough. I tried it today and it was great, and so easy to make. I made the dough yesterday as they suggested, and baked one loaf today. However, the loaf is small and yummy, so I may bake 2 at a time next so that I have more bread.

Ingredients (for four 1-pound loaves):

3 c lukewarm water
1 1/2 T yeast
1 1/2 T salt
6 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose white flour
Cornmeal or whole wheat flour for pizza peel


Warm the water slightly. Add yeast and salt to the water in a large bowl. Mix in the flour (no kneading required). Mix with wooden spoon or using dough hook on mixer. Cover bowl with a lid (not airtight) that fits well to the container you are using. Allow mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse, approximately 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).

You can use a portion of the dough after this period and refrigerate the rest. Fully refrigerated dough is best to work with (overnight or at least 3 hours).

To bake:
Sprinkle surface of dough with flour. Pull up and cut off 1-pound (grapefruit size) piece. Hold mass of dough in 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.
Rest the loaf and let it rise on a pizza peel (I didn't have one so I used a plate), dusted with cornmeal or whole wheat flour. Let dough rest for 40 minutes, uncovered.
Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 F, with a baking stone placed on middle rack and empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread (I put mine below the shelf the bread would be on).
Dust top of loaf liberally with flour and slash a tic tac toe pattern (or other pattern as desired) on top of loaf with bread knife.
Slide loaf onto preheated baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour about 1 c of hot tap water into broiler tray and close oven door to trap steam. Bake about 30 minutes, or till crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch.
Allow to cool completely.

Store baked loaf cut side down on a plate or clean counter, not in a bag.


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