I’ve posted a few photos of my loaves of bread on Twitter, freshly baked and out of the oven recently. I’ve been asked for the recipe – years ago, I had a recipe on my blog but in rebuilding the blog, it seems to have disappeared.
First, don’t tell anyone that you might bake this bread for, just how easy it was! Let them think you spent enormous amounts of time and energy making this happen. That’s what I do 🙂 You will have people admiring your amazing work of bread “art” – and they will also marvel at how good the bread tastes. The truth is though, it will hardly take up any of your time – and there is not much work to it. But first, let’s talk about the flour you should use. It’s important.
Not Just Any Flour Will Do
If you’re in North America, most all-purpose flours will be fine. As I wrote elsewhere, there are many differences in wheat flour – and what I have discovered is that an “all-purpose” flour in Greece and perhaps other parts of Europe are not the same as an “all-purpose” flour in North America. In addition, there are different types of wheat, which are categorized into “soft” and “hard” wheat varieties. I have found that for this bread recipe, you want a hard wheat flour with a high protein flour.
For years, I’d use King Arthur flour – because my mom’s second husband would pick up a huge 25 lb sack of it for me in the US, and bring it back to me in Orangeville, Ontario. It’s a great flour for this bread and very inexpensive. The next best flour that I found was Robin Hood brand bread flour, with their all-purpose coming in a close second.
If all you have available is a generic brand of all-purpose (in North America), you’ll be fine. The Robin Hood and King Arthur flours just seem to give a tad more “taste” and I found they were more consistent to work with over time.
So, if all you have in your cupboard is a bag of that yellow packaged no name all purpose flour from Zehrs, go ahead and use it.
If You’re In Europe….
I have tried several varieties of “all-purpose” flour here in Greece. Forget about it. The results have always been pitiful. Thankfully, I discovered a couple of the major grocery stores in Greece do carry Robin Hood Canadian flour – and while it’s dear in price, it’s well worth it to get the results I want and expect.
There may be other brands available in Europe that provide a high-protein flour, but I can’t help you with that. Of course, this bread is actually so easy to make, you can experiment on your own!
Simple Artisan Style Bread – What You’ll Need
Almost as important as the protein content of the flour is the vessel you will be baking the bread in. Back home in Orangeville, I generally use a cast iron 5 Litre (I think – possibly 7 litre) Dutch Oven like this from Lodge.
Don’t have a cast iron dutch oven? No worries – any round baking vessel with a lid about 5 litres in size, and that can withstand oven temperatures of at least 450F (235C) will work great. In fact, the very first time I tried this bread, I used a 4.5L casserole dish with a lid from Home Hardware. It was on sale at the time, and it works fine although it’s a tad small. Sometimes when I bake this bread in it, the top of the loaf rises and sticks to the lid. But it’s not a big deal, really.
You’ll also need a mixing bowl that will hold all the ingredients plus allow space for double the rising.
Some plastic wrap.
The ingredients for this are dead simple. You’ll be amazed at how simple they are. Now, it should be noted that it is highly recommended when baking bread (or other things) that you go by weight of the ingredients instead of a volume measurement. The reason for this is pretty simple: wheat flour volume can shrink or expand – often depending on humid it is – and this can vary the water you will need.
But we’re going to keep it simple and just cup measurements. You can always adjust the water and/or flour if you want. But basically:
- 3 cups of flour
- 1 1/2 cups of water
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 Tablespoon salt
You’ll also want a bit more flour for dusting a surface, and if you want, to dust the top of the loaf before you put it in the oven to bake.
Artisan Bread – Time Is The Secret – Not Kneading
There will be no need to knead! You read that right. You do not need to knead this bread whatsoever. This may sound ludicrous to you, but it is true. You will just mix the ingredients together in a bowl (you should end up with a slightly “ragged” dough”). If your dough is too moist, it will end up being floppy and hard to handle – but will still make fine bread when baked. Believe me, I’ve made mistakes, and as long as using a good quality high-protein flour, I still end up with great bread!
You will need to start this bread the day before you bake it. It is the time of slow fermentation with the small amount of instant yeast you will use that does all the work for you, instead of any kneading. Instant yeast is important – but it’s available in any grocery store I’ve been in, in North America. I now buy the stuff in bulk, freeze it and take out a couple of ounces worth that goes into a small bottle and kept in the refrigerator. Once I use up the refrigerated yeast, I just take out the frozen and add it to my bottle. Yeast will last a very long time in the freezer!
Let’s Get On With The Instructions!
Eighteen to Twenty-Four hours before you plan to bake the bread (honestly, you don’t have to be hung up on the exact time), you mix your ingredients together in a bowl. I add the flour, salt, and yeast and whisk that well before adding the water.
Then I mix will with a heavy spoon until all the flour is mixed together and I can form a ball with it in the bowl.
I then cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
That’s it for day 1. Allow this to sit at room temperature overnight – give it 18 hours or more.
On Day 2, you should see that the dough has risen and has formed air bubbles on top. Again, there’s absolutely NO need to worry about time – I’ve even, on occasion, let my dough sit in that bowl for longer than 24 hours. You could even allow long periods in a chilly room; the retardation of the yeast rising the dough will give it plenty of flavour.
But for now, keep it simple, and after about 18 hours, take out a piece of wax paper and lay it on a flat surface such as your counter or table. Dust it with flour.
Dust your hands with flour and remove the dough from the bowl. Shape it into a round ball – you’ll compress it back down, and you might want to have extra flour available if it’s sticking to your hands. Put on top of the dusted wax paper, then cover with the same piece (or new piece) of plastic wrap you used to cover the bowl.
You’ll want to allow the dough to sit there at least an hour or so.
About half an hour before you’re ready to bake the bread, turn your oven on to 450F. Put in the baking utensil (with the lid off) into the oven to pre-heat it as well.
When the oven has finished pre-heating, you’re ready to start to baking!
I am assuming most of you have common-sense and will understand that the baking vessel (Dutch Oven, round casserole dish, etc) will be very hot at this point. You’ll either remove that baking vessel from the oven with oven mitts or if you’re oven allows, pull out the oven rack the dish is on – and gently place the dough inside. If it sticks off centre, just give the vessel a bit of a shake to straighten the dough out.
Stick it back in the oven, with the lid on!
Bake for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove the lid from the Dutch Oven and bake another 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack if you have one. If you don’t have a cooling rack, don’t let this stop you – just place the loaf, which will be very hot, on a wooden board.
Some of us can’t wait for the bread to cool and need to cut off a slice and spread a big slab of butter on top and eat right away! Whatever the case, your kitchen (and perhaps your entire house) will have a wonderful scent of baked bread drifting through.
As the loaf cools, you’ll likely hear the crust making crackling noises. I enjoy listening to that.
And that’s it. You’ve just baked a most awesome artisan style loaf of bread that people will admire you for, give you all sorts of compliments on your bread baking skills, and might even offer to pay you good money to bake them one as well.
How To Consume This Bread
However you want! Sometimes, I slice it and make big sandwiches with it. Sometimes, even amazing deluxe grilled cheese with tomato and oregano. Toast it. Just butter it up and eat it.
Cut it up however you want.
For best results, store in a paper bag. This will keep the crust crispy. Plastic bag storage will cause the crust to soften up.
You can freeze this bread (in plastic though, not paper) and it will keep a good long time (if you really want to freeze it and not eat it). Sometimes, I’ll make two loaves at once just because it’s energy efficient to do so, and freeze one of the loaves while consuming the other over a couple of days.
The Original No-Knead Bread Recipe
Giving credit where credit is due is important to me. I first came across a recipe for “no-knead bread” about 16 years ago. It was a recipe published in the New York Times by Mark Bittman and Jim Lahey. Their original recipe called for slightly more water (which I did not like) and only 2 teaspoons of salt; I prefer a full tablespoon. Now-a-days, you’ll see plenty of recipes for “No-Knead Bread” as if the author created the recipe themselves – but most likely, it originated from that New York Times recipe. It was a bit of a “blogging rage” back then.
Wedding Feast Bread
As mentioned, it’s energy efficient to make two loaves at once, if you have two oven safe baking vessels that you can use, and your oven is large enough for both at the same time. Here in Greece, the kitchen ranges are considerably smaller than the typical North American range along with a much smaller oven. So I don’t do that here. But in Orangeville, I regularly do this.
In fact, when my mom remarried after my father had passed away, my son David and I baked the bread for her reception! We baked I believe, 8 – 10 loaves; one for each table – it took lots of planning ahead, but it was rewarding to do this. David was about 6 years old at the time, and he thoroughly enjoyed helping out and did a great job!
Gosh – I made a huge error in the original ingredient list and had cups of water and flour switched around! Big thanks to Twitter account @Kitnklub123 LouAnn Vennettilli – the error has been fixed.