This artisanal bread recipe takes a little time, but it's actually pretty easy and it creates 2 beautiful round loaves of bread. And, making artisanal bread in your own kitchen means you know exactly what’s in it and what’s not. You can make bread that tastes better, is better for you, and is cheaper than buying it in the store. And, since it freezes well, you can make several loaves over a weekend and enjoy bread all month long. It's a no-brainer... home-made bread is a winner.
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The Basic How To
While I have modified the original recipe to make the loaves as I like them, the original recipe and method came from the book, Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish. This book is amazing. While I have made bread for years, this book was a game-changer. I will forever make bread using this method. If you are serious about making bread, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy. However, I do give a pretty good overview of the process in the video later in this post.
As you can probably tell by the title of the book, only 4 ingredients are necessary to make these beautiful boules of bread.
Flour - A typical Unbleached All Purpose Flour will give you the protein content you want for this bread. You can also use some Whole Wheat Flour, which in my opinion, makes it yummier.
Water - If you don't have good water, consider using spring water or running your water through a water filter.
Salt - Use Sea Salt. Avoid iodized salt as the iodine interferes with yeast fermentation.
Yeast - I followed the recommendation in the book and purchased SAF Red Instant Yeast. It has worked great for me. I simply emptied the container into a mason jar and keep it stored in my refrigerator.
Add-Ins - I like to add in Old Fashioned Oats and Roasted Sunflower Seeds to make a hearty bread.
I bought all the tools Forkish recommends and it has made the process easy and with no fuss. I am providing links to the exact products I use, except for the dutch oven (mine came from a flea market).
Dough Tubs - I bought the set and use the small tub to measure my flour and water while using the large one to mix my dough and bulk rise. LINK
Dutch Oven - this is the key to the amazing crust. I use a plain cast iron dutch oven, but an enameled one works well too. LINK
Digital Kitchen Scale - weighing your ingredients is key. Scooping and leveling have too much room for error and can make a huge difference in the amount of flour you end up with in the bowl. LINK
Thermometer - the temperature of the water you use is very important. LINK
Proofing baskets & Scraper Tool - while you can just use bowls, the baskets add a lovely texture that makes the boules look rustic and beautiful. LINK
Parchment Paper - this is optional. For the longest time, I didn't use it. However, I found that not only does it make cleanup a little easier, but it also helps in removing the bread from the pan.
Oven Thermometer - you may set your oven to one temperature, but how accurate is that? Check your oven occasionally to see. Then, adjust the temperature you set for all your backing. LINK
Watch Me Make It
My Ingredient List
800g Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
200g Whole Wheat Flour
790g water at 95⁰F
22g sea salt (20g if adding salted dry roasted sunflower seeds)
1/2 tsp yeast
I use an overnight bulk rise, so I start the dough in the evening.
Measure out the flour and place it in the large tub.
Fill a pitcher with hot water, aiming for 95⁰F or a little higher. Measure the water and add it to the flour.
Mix the water and flour by hand until all the flour is moistened. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour mixture with the salt and yeast, using the folding and pinching method (watch the video to see this) to combine salt and yeast into the dough. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.
(if including Add-ins, sprinkle them onto the dough now) Fold until the dough ball tightens back up. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.
Fold again until the dough ball tightens.
Cover and let sit overnight to rise.
Note - I set a timer for the 30-minute intervals and just stop whatever I'm doing to run into the kitchen to fold the bread. It only takes a couple of minutes and isn't a big disruption.
In the morning, move the dough to the counter, and divide it in half. Form each half into a ball (see video for the method) and place the seam side down into a well-floured rising basket or bowl. Cover with a tea towel to rise for about 2 hours.
The rising time depends on the temperature of your kitchen. However, I have found that the dough is pretty forgiving so if you cut the time a little short or let it go a little too long, it still turns out great. If you are going to have a long delay, place the basket of dough into a plastic bag and place it into the fridge. This will hold the rise and avoid over-proofing the loaf.
Preheat the oven to 475⁰F, with the Dutch oven inside. You want to preheat for about 45 minutes before you start baking the bread. I have skimped it down to 30 minutes and it still cooked well. However, quoting from the book, "The goal is for the Dutch oven to be fully saturated with oven heat before you place the loaf inside."
I have 2 Dutch ovens, but find that I struggle to fit them both in my oven without the weight of them damaging my oven rack. Therefore, I bake one loaf at a time. Place a long piece of parchment into the Dutch oven and then place the loaf in. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and back 10-15 minutes longer until the top of the bread is dark brown. Remove the Dutch oven and carefully transfer the baked loaf to a cooling rack and immediately put the second loaf in to bake.
Note - ovens vary, which is why that final time can vary so much. It may also be worth investing in an oven thermometer so you can find out if your temperature settings are accurate. If they aren't, you may need to adjust from 475⁰F
Use extreme caution - the Dutch oven is scorching hot and is very slow to cool down. I never fail to burn myself when making bread.