crusty artisan bread

I love bread. I know a lot of girls are into chocolate, but for me bread is where it’s at. (Real bread, of course, not that weird homogenous overly processed bread that you buy in bags at the grocery store.) That stuff has its uses, but I could eat freshly baked bread for every meal. I bake some sort of bread product at least once a week (usually 2-3 times a week) and it feels like magic every time. It’s weird that you can just throw a few simple ingredients into a bowl, mix, cover it with plastic wrap, and come back in an hour or two to find perfect squishy dough. I love this particular bread recipe because it’s so simple and easy, and it makes me feel like a real chef. It’s definitely worth it to follow all the steps, in particular adding the water to the oven so it can steam. I’ve found that often the best breads have the fewest ingredients, and this one is about as minimal as it can be, with just flour, salt, water and yeast. Yum!

Crusty Artisan Bread
Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting dough

In a large bowl mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel but don’t seal the bowl airtight. Let the dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours). Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered in an airtight container, for as long as two weeks.

Divide dough in half. Turn the dough in your hands to lightly stretch the surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put the dough on a piece of parchment paper set on a pizza peel or a rimmed baking sheet turned upside down. Let the dough rest for 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it. Place a broiler pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Place a baking stone on the middle rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat the stone at that temperature for 20 minutes before baking.

After the dough has rested and is ready to bake, dust the dough lightly with flour, slash the top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide the dough (with the parchment paper) onto the baking stone. Pour one cup of hot water into the broiler pan and shut the oven quickly to trap the steam. Bake the bread until well browned, about 24-28 minutes. Cool completely.

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