This bread is amazing. I have been making it for several years – and it always comes out great. This is truly the easiest to make, best tasting and cheapest (less than a dollar a loaf) bread you will ever make – and when I say easy – you might not want to tell your friends and family how really easy it is to make or they will expect you to make it ALL the time! There are only four ingredients and while it does take some planning, it is easy even for the novice baker. This bread is easy to prepare but you need to do it the night before you want to serve it as there is a long “resting” time – that is what makes this bread taste so great! This recipe is adapted from Jim Lahey’s My Bread, available on Amazon.com.
5 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for your work surface
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 2/3 cups cool water
In a large bowl (I use my KitchenAid stand mixer with the nifty dough hook) combine the flour, yeast and salt. Turn mixer on low setting, adding the water slowly, while scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix well, combining ingredients thoroughly. The dough will be wet and sticky and look like this:
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the bread sit 12-18 hours at room temperature. When the dough has darkened slightly, smells yeasty and the top is dotted with tiny bubbles, then it is ready. Next, lightly flour your hands and your work surface. Place dough on work surface and sprinkle with more flour. Fold the dough over itself once or twice, then tuck under the ends to make a rough ball. Cover with floured towel or flour dusted waxed paper and let sit for two hours, or until doubled in size. After 1.5 hours, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place large (6-8 quart size) covered dutch oven in the oven and let it preheat. This is the big secret to the artisan loaf – the hot dutch oven creates a mini bread oven! (If your dutch oven doesn’t have an ovenproof knob, cover with aluminum foil). After two hours total, (dutch oven has been in the oven for 30 minutes to preheat) carefully remove pot from oven and “flip” dough over the pot, seam side up. If you need to, shake it a few times to evenly distribute in pan. Cover and bake for 40 minutes, then remove lid from pot and bake additional 10-15 minutes or until top of loaf is nice and crusty browned. Remove bread from pot and let cool completely on wire rack before cutting (I know it will be tempting, but the bread will be better if you wait until it is cooled completely before slicing.) This makes a giant sized loaf – if you know you won’t use it all in a day or two, cut in half and freeze half for later. The next time you are at the grocery store, it will be so easy to pass the store bought loaves by, knowing how easy to make and delicious this bread is!