Crusty Artisan Bread

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It feels like we’re all settling in to this new stay-at-home reality. While these are strange times, one bright spot for me has been spending more time in the kitchen and around the table with family. This week, I taught my 16-year-old son, Zach — who is normally way too busy being a teenager to hang out with me — how to make homemade bread. When he was little, he used to like to “help.” I loved having him back in the kitchen, and it felt good to teach him something practical.

This homemade artisan bread recipe is astonishingly easy, and it makes enough for three delicious loaves, which you can bake as needed. What’s more, the dough takes just five minutes to make, does not require kneading or any special equipment, and can rest in the fridge for up to two weeks (the flavor becomes more complex the longer it sits). The recipe is modestly adapted from one of my favorite baking books, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day by Jeff Hertzberg M.D. and Zoë François.

What You’ll Need To Make Crusty Artisan Bread

ingredients for homemade bread

How To Make Crusty Artisan Bread

flour, yeast and salt in mixing bowl

In a very large (6-quart) bowl, combine the flour, salt, and yeast. Mix to combine.

mixed dry ingredients

Add 3 cups of lukewarm water (no need to be exact but lukewarm is about 100°F).

adding water

Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is uniformly moist, without any patches of flour.

bread dough

The dough should be sticky and conform to the shape of the bowl. If your dough is too dry, add a few tablespoons more warm water. If it’s too wet, add a few tablespoons of flour. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter in a warm spot for 2 hours. As you can see below, it will rise a lot!

dough after the first rise

When you’re ready to bake a loaf, pull out one-third of the dough.

removing some of the bread dough from the bowl

Coat the outside lightly with flour (you don’t want to incorporate more flour into the dough, you just want to be able to handle it). Gently work the dough into a smooth ball, stretching the surface and tucking the ends underneath.

shaping the bread dough into a ball

Put the dough ball onto a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet and let rest at room temperature, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.

letting the bread dough rest on a baking sheet

The dough will rise a bit.

bread dough after second rise

Generously dust the dough with flour. Using a sharp knife, make a few 1/2-inch-deep slashes in the dough — a scallop, cross, or tic tac toe pattern all look nice.

slashing the bread dough

Set a metal pan on the bottom rack of a preheated 450°F-oven. Slide the dough into the oven, and carefully fill the metal cake pan with one cup of hot tap water. This creates steam in the oven. (Try to do this quickly so as not to let heat out of the oven.) Bake until the loaf is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

baked bread
This bread is best enjoyed fresh on the day it is made. Once sliced, place the loaf cut-side down on a cutting board or plate and leave it uncovered.

How To Freeze

The dough can be portioned into thirds and frozen in airtight plastic containers for up to 1 month. Defrost the dough in the refrigerator overnight, then shape, rest and bake as usual. The baked loaves can also be frozen whole or sliced. Wrap in a zip-top freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 month. To thaw, take the bread out of the freezer and let it come to room temperature, about 3 hours. Reheat in a 350°F oven until warmed through, about 10 minutes.

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