I’ve baked quick breads and no-yeast cinnamon rolls but have never worked with yeast before. Today I attempted to bake some homemade artisan bread:
- 1.5 cups lukewarm water
- 1/2 Tbsp yeast (instant or active dry)
- 1/2 Tbsp salt
- 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1. Add the warm water to a large bowl. Add the yeast and salt, mix briefly. You do not need to proof the yeast.
2. Add the flour. Mix the flour into the water using a wooden spoon. You can use your hands towards the end if it’s easier – but you do not have to knead the dough. Just mix until the dough comes together, and that’s it.
3. Loosely cover the dough (I use plastic wrap and leave an air gap on the side of the bowl to allow venting) and allow it to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours. The dough will rise and start to look spongy, then it will eventually begin to flatten and collapse on itself – this is what you want. (If after the 2 hour rise, your dough has not collapsed, it’s ok. Just cover (vented) and store in the refrigerator.) The first time you make this dough, it’s best not to make the bread the same day – wait at least a day. The dough will be much easier to handle when cold, and the flavor will be better past the first day.
4. When you are ready to bake, cut 1/2 of the dough off to shape. With floured hands, on a floured surface, lightly shape the dough into a round ball. You want to try to create a smooth surface to the dough or “gluten cloak”. You can do this by stretching the surface, and tucking the edges under into the bottom. The bottom can be ugly and jagged, the top should be nice and smooth.
5. Let the loaf rise for about 40 minutes, uncovered. It’s ok if the dough doesn’t look like it has risen much – it will rise much more in the oven.
6. Dust the loaf top with some flour, and make some 1/4″ deep slashes in the top of the dough with a sharp knife. The purpose of the scoring step is to allow the bread to “bloom” in the proper direction when baking. The slashes will guide the direction of expansion. Either a cross or a tic-tac-toe pattern of slashes seems to work the best.
7. 20 minutes into the rise step, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put a thick baking sheet into the bottom of the oven to preheat.
8. Gently slide the dough directly onto the 450 degree preheated baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes, depending on the size of your loaf. The crust will be a deep golden brown when done.
9. Remove the baked loaf and allow to cool. You may hear the crust crackle during the initial cooling step – this is called “sing” and is totally normal. If you can wait until the bread is cool, the texture will be much better. Voila! You have made bread!!!!
10. Store the remaining dough with a vented cover (you can use plastic wrap over a bowl with a few holes poked) in the refrigerator. Use the remaining dough up within 2 weeks. Because this is a very “wet” dough, the gluten protein that gives structure and texture to the bread will develop over time, no kneading required. Anytime during the 2 weeks, you can pull out a hunk of dough and bake it for fresh bread. This recipe yields about 2 loaves, and the flavor will develop during the 2 weeks. So the first loaf will taste milder, the later loaf will taste more like sourdough.
So after i preheated my oven and right before i put in my dough for baking, my oven broke suddenly. The lights & heat went out, no reason, just like that. I was pretty surprised and not sure what to do. Fortunately i had a smaller counter-top toaster oven, so i quickly set that to 450F and put my dough in there and hope for the best. I know the bread won’t turn out perfect since toaster ovens are not the same as regular ovens. The heat is distributed differently.
I baked it for a shorter amount of time, 20 minutes. It got a little burnt on the outside since it’s so close to the heat source. After letting it cool, i sliced into it and the smell of freshly baked bread filled the air. It looked and tasted just like bread from the bakery. I’m so happy with the way it turned out! Success!
On a side note: the maintenance people came to fix my oven and they couldn’t fix it so they replaced my oven range with a brand new one! And today is national doughnut day so i’m going to Krispy Kreme to get my free donut! 🙂