Making your own bread sounds like a laborious undertaking. But with this savvy recipe from Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, you’ll find that it takes only minutes and four simple ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast.
Here’s the recipe they’re demonstrating in the video; I’ve added herbs to this variation for some extra flavor. This makes four 1-pound loaves and can be easily doubled or halved. If you don’t have a pizza stone, fear not. A cast iron skillet works beautifully. You can also use a standard cookie sheet, but it won’t rise as much or get as brown. Here’s a tip: save money on yeast by buying a two-pound bulk package at a big box store (such as Costco). Then invite four or five friends over and divvy it up among them — and share this recipe with them.
3 cups lukewarm water, about 100°F
1-1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (1-1/2 packets)
1-1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
1 tablespoon dried mixed Italian herbs
4-1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour,
measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
2 cups whole wheat flour
Cornmeal for baking sheet
Combine the water, yeast, herbs and salt in a 5-quart bowl or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container. Add all of the flour at once and mix with a wooden spoon, a high-capacity food processor with a dough attachment or stand mixer fitted with a dough hook until universally moist, without any dry patches. Don’t knead. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap (not airtight) and allow to rise at room temperature for 2 hours. If not using immediately, refrigerate the dough and cover with a lid (not airtight).
When ready to bake, scoop up a big handful of dough, about the size of a grapefruit, and cut it away with a serrated knife. “Cloak” the bread with flour and stretch the surface of the dough around the bottom on all four sides to shape into a round, smooth loaf. Put the formed loaf on a pizza peel or cutting board sprinkled liberally with cornmeal to prevent your loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven. Let rise, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.
Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450°F. If using a baking stone, place it on the middle rack to preheat. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on a lower shelf. Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour. Slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross, “scallop,” or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife.
Slide the loaf off the pizza peel or cutting and onto the preheated baking stone or baking sheet. Quickly but carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water from the tap into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch.
The remaining dough may be stored in the refrigerator in a lidded (not airtight) container and used over the next 14 days. Cut off and shape more loaves as you need them. The dough can also be frozen in 1 pound portions in an airtight container and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking day.
Who Wrote This Recipe
This is the master recipe from Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François’ wildly successful book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Their follow-up book, Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day, features more mixed grain and whole wheat breads along with some gluten-free options. Their latest title, Pizza and Flatbreads in Five Minutes a Day, is filled with kid-friendly recipes. They have loads of recipes and tips on their web site ArtisanBreadinFive.com