Is there anything better than a fresh loaf of homemade bread on a Sunday morning. Warm, doughy goodness with a crusty outside layer enjoyed with a strong coffee on the patio. That’s the life, isn’t it?
Two years back, I pretty much stopped eating bread. Well, that’s not true. I stopped eating bland, over-processed breads – the Wonder and Dempster’s of the world. Or that crap they serve at Subway. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed plenty of Kettleman’s bagels and had my fair share of baguette’s from my local bakery.
Maybe that’s why I started learning how to bake. I love bread, I really do. When I began training for marathons in early 2013, I needed to fit carbs back into my diet somehow. Poor me, I know. Late last year, Katie got herself hooked on baking. Muffins, cookies, scones – all the goodies. As I started to help her out more, I became fascinated with baking and how different it was from cooking. Since then I’ve dabbled in baking myself – but I am more of a bread guy. I now make my own Montreal-style bagels and na’an bread for curry night.
Recently we’ve had a little problem with a place called Art Is In Bakery. The problem is that we’re hooked. These guys make the best damn bread in the city. It’s probably the best bread I have ever had, to be honest. I can’t even do it justice with my words. Next time you’re in Ottawa, swing by and treat yourself to a loaf – you won’t regret it.
With the baking bug, the need to carbo-load before the marathon, and this mini addiction to Art Is In, I took it upon myself to learn how to bake a loaf of artisan bread this weekend. I always thought of baking bread as this monumental task that you need to try several times before getting it right. Not this recipe. It is really simple and easy to make – and it’s absolutely fantastic. Even better, the leftover dough keeps in the fridge, giving potential to the ultimate dream – fresh bread on weekdays.
Crusty, rustic outside, with a warm, soft inside. The perfect artisan bread. This recipe is adapted from several similar ones I found around the web. This seems to be the standard for making this type of bread. Oh man, I’m excited for you to try this.
Rustic Artisan Bread
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting)
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp yeast
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
In a large mixing bowl, mix the yeast and salt with the water. Stir in the flour and mix thoroughly until it is well combined – the dough will be shaggy and loose. Cover with a towel and let rise on the counter for 2 hours.
Place the dough in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least three hours. If you want to bake your bread now, carry on. If not, leave it in the fridge – the dough will last up to two weeks. The dough will make about 3 medium sized loaves of bread. You know what that means. Fresh bread all week!
Lightly dust your countertop with flour. Using a sharp knife, cut off a chunk of the dough, about the size of a large grapefruit. Place the unused dough back into the airtight container in the fridge for later use. Work the dough on your floured surface lightly with your hands, kneading a few times for about a minute, forming a ball. Press down on the top of the dough to flatten it out a bit so that it isn’t completely round. Place the dough on a small sheet of parchment paper and let sit for 40 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 500F. Place an empty dutch oven with the lid on in the oven on the middle rack and let heat for 30 minutes. After your dough has sat for 40 minutes, make three incisions in the top with a sharp knife, as shown below. The middle cut should be longer and deeper than the two on either side. Light dust with a bit more flour.
Carefully remove your pot from the oven. Pick up your dough by lifting the edges of the parchment paper, and slowly place it into the heated pot. Replace the lid letting the paper hang out the sides, and put back into the oven for 25 minutes.
Remove the lid and lower the temperature of the oven to 450F. Bake for another 10-12 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and has an internal temperature of about 210F. Remove bread from the dutch oven and place on a wire rack to cool for for 2 hours. Or, if you’re like me, dig into the hot loaf of deliciousness right away.
Just look at this beauty. How can you resist?