Easy Artisan Bread

**April 2010 Update: I now make this bread with less yeast and salt and more whole wheat flour with the same great results! I try to let it set three or four days in the fridge before using to increase the “sourdough” factor. Find specific changes in the recipe at the end.**

Easy Artisan bread in pot

I make this artisan bread almost weekly – it’s pretty addictive and the recipe I found, modified somewhat, is super easy and produces a bread at home that is very similar to what you might find in a bakery.

It could change the way you think about making bread.

From a frugal standpoint, when unbleached flour is .30 cents per pound and whole wheat is .50 cents per pound, the total cost for 2 – 4 loaves (depending on how big you make your loaves) is .65 cents! I’ve added about .10 for the yeast and salt bought in bulk.

I should take this moment to mention ALWAYS buy your yeast in bulk. Any store that has bins will usually have yeast. It’s so much cheaper than the little packets. And you’re going to be making a lot of bread – believe me!

The following recipe is adapted from Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day by J. Hertzberg and Z. Francois and also found printed in a NY Times article from 2007:

These are the ingredients – notice how few. Just flour, water, yeast and salt. Simple. I love it!

Put the yeast and salt in a bowl. You can do this by hand, but I like to put it in the mixer because, well, it’s easier. Add lukewarm water- I just use warm water from the tap. You can mix it or not- it’s up to you!

Add all the flour. The original recipe used all unbleached, I’ve tried half whole wheat, but the texture wasn’t the same, so I’ve settled on 2 cups whole wheat and 4- 1/2 cups unbleached. If I have it, I will use Rye flour for the last 1/2 cup.

I like to mix it until it starts to clean the sides of the bowl. The original recipe emphasizes not kneading the dough, just mix it together. While I don’t knead, per se, getting it to the stage in this picture is probably more than the original recipe meant. I like the texture of the bread with just a touch more beating (maybe only 30 seconds to 1 minute is all).

Then just transfer it to a large bowl (or if you mixed by hand, just leave it in the same bowl), and cover it with plastic wrap, but not airtight. Leave to sit on the counter 1-1/2 to 2 hours until it looks like this:

Notice the time written on the plastic – that’s my little trick to remind me when the time’s up. Now just stick it in the refrigerator! You can leave it there for up to 14 days, according to the original recipe. However it becomes more sour, like a sourdough, as it ages and I made a loaf at day 9 once and it was too sour for me. So, I always use it within a week. If I don’t need bread, I make it anyway and freeze it. But that’s just me.

Another thing I do differently (besides changing up the flours and decreasing the salt) is to cook the bread in a hot enamel dutch oven with the lid on during the first 15 minutes. Cook’s Illustrated did an article on cooking bread in one, saying when the steam escapes in the first minutes, it hits the sides and creates it’s own steam. Basically, as close to a bakery oven as we can get at home. Works for me!

I purchased this oven at Wal Mart for $39.99 – the most I’ve ever spent on a single piece of cookware. It does make a wonderful crust without me worrying about spraying water or putting water in the oven, so it’s been worth it to me.

But if you don’t have a dutch oven, you can still bake this bread. The original recipe has you use a baking stone with a pan of water in the oven – the steam from the water broke my stone when I did this, but if the water was on the top rack, it would work. I’ve also used a regular cookie sheet and sprayed some water on the loaf before going in the oven. Try different methods and see which you like best.

About 1-1/2 hours before you want to serve the bread, take the bowl out of the refrigerator, pull the plastic off (the dough will be sticky) and dust the top with flour. Put the enamel dutch oven, with the lid on, in the oven and turn it on to 450 degrees.

Scrape the dough off the sides of the bowl and pull the amount you need off, cutting with a serrated knife. This amount of dough makes four small loaves or two large (or three medium, I suppose!). My family needs the larger size, so I always just cut it in half.

Round it in your floured hands until it is a somewhat smooth ball, not handling it too much so you don’t loose the air in the dough that gives the bread it’s great texture.

Place the dough ball on a cookie sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper and dust the top with flour. The paper will be used in the dutch oven, the cookie sheet is just for moving the dough over to the oven (if not using the dutch oven, transfer parchment to baking stone, or just use the cookie sheet to bake). The parchment can be used 3 to 4 times before it starts falling apart and it makes it really easy to transfer the dough to the hot dutch oven. Set the timer for 30 minutes while the dough rests on the counter.

When the thirty minutes is up, take a sharp, serrated knife and slash the top in any pattern you choose, just make sure to slash a good 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch deep. I use to barely cut into the top and then the dough would explode out the bottom making the dough look weird and misshapen.

Remove the lid of the hot dutch oven and using two opposite corners of the parchment, transfer the dough to the pot. Replace the lid, close the oven, and set the timer for 15 minutes for the smaller loaves, 17 minutes for the larger loaf.

After the timer goes off, remove the lid and set the timer for the same amount of time as the first (if using a stone or cookie sheet, just set the timer for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan if you need to in your oven for even browning). Take the loaf out when it is nicely browned – don’t be afraid to put it back in the oven until it looks browned. Sometimes I’ve found it may need up to another 5 minutes.

Remove immediately to a wire rack – I just dump the loaf from the dutch oven onto the rack (’cause the pot is HOT and heavy!), then turn it over. You’ll want to wait at least a half hour before cutting it, preferably an hour, otherwise it will gum up on the knife. Confession: many times I’m running late (surprise) and find I’m taking it out of the oven 10 minutes before we need to eat. So here’s a trick I learned cooking at a summer camp: use an electric carving knife! It slices quickly enough that it doesn’t gum up quite as much as it normally would when the bread’s still quite hot.

Do yourself a favor and make this bread as soon as you can – and prepare for the ooh’s and aah’s!

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Easy Artisan Bread Baked In An Enamel Dutch Oven

*Updated 4/2010*

  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1-1/2 TB instant yeast (only a scant TB now )
  • 1 TB salt (only 2-1/2 tsp.)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (3-1/2 c. w.w. flour – whole wheat white flour is best)
  • 4-1/2 cups unbleached flour (only 3 c. unbleached flour)
  1. Put the yeast and salt in a bowl and add the water.
  2. Add all the flour and mix well.
  3. Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (not airtight). Let set at room temperature for about 1-1/2 hours.
  4. Put in the refrigerator for up to 14 days (I prefer only about 1 week).
  5. When ready to bake, place an enameled dutch oven, with lid, in a 450 degree oven. Dust the dough with flour, grab a quarter, third, or half (depending on the size loaf you want) and cut off piece with a serrated knife. Using well-floured hands, shape gently into a ball and place on a piece of parchment paper resting on a cookie sheet. Dust the top with more flour.
  6. Let sit on the counter 30 minutes. Then slash the top of the loaf with a serrated knife.
  7. Transfer the loaf to the hot dutch oven using the edges of the parchment, replace the lid, and cook for 15 to 17 minutes.
  8. Remove lid and continue to cook for another 15 to 17 minutes, or until loaf is a golden brown.
  9. Remove to a cooling rack for 30 to 60 minutes before cutting.

Comments

  1. Very eager to try this recipe. I like that it requires minimal prep and can hang out in the fridge til needed! Also quite interested in your dutch oven trick.

  2. Thanks for posting. I hope you will join me this week for Crock Pot Wednesday. Mister Linky will be up and ready for you on Tuesday. Thanks again

  3. What a beautiful bread, I will have to try it! I love the idea of writing the time on the plastic wrap! Thanks for a great post!

  4. Thanks for the fabulous instructions on this bread. I made it yesterday for dinner last night and it was excellent. I think it will become a routine. We were buying our favorite artisan bread at Safeway for a special treat at $3.60 a loaf!!! What a savins:)

  5. I’m really interested in trying this recipe. Do you think you can use a regular cast iron dutch oven (not the enamel kind) for this?

  6. Shayne- I looked back through the article I had from Cook’s Illustrated that used the dutch oven for this recipe and it just says “dutch oven” and doesn’t specify enameled. However, the pictures show an enameled one and their recommended pots are enameled. So ?… I think you should go for it and if you’re happy with the results, there’s your answer. ;-)

  7. Thank you SO much for this recipe!! I made it last night for my Hubby and friends. They couldn’t believe that I made it! (I’m a cook, not a baker) From now on, my fridge will never be void of dough.

    Thank you!

  8. Whoo-hoo, Alissa- congratulations! Glad you found it helpful.

  9. I gave this a try with a slight beer and vinegar modification and was very pleased. Thanks!

    http://cookingroastingbrewing.blogspot.com/2010/03/simple-crusty-beer-bread.html

  10. Heather, I have my batch aging in my fridge right now and will update you on how it turns out…Memorial Day, probably. I LOVE to make bread!
    –pogonip

  11. Made this bread as my first ever attempt at bread-baking, and I love it! I made a few modifications, adding two tablespoons of sugar to the yeast and salt, and chopping up eight cloves of garlic to mix in with the dough. I also forgot it on the counter over night, so it had lot of rising/resting time, but the resulting bread was very soft on the inside, crispy on the out, and flavored wonderfully with garlic. Best garlic bread I’ve ever tasted, and much cheaper to boot! Thank you so much for the easy recipe!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Does the dough need to go in the refrigerator or can it be baked after the rise?

  13. Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says:

    Sorry, Anonymous, for not getting to your question earlier- no, you can bake it right away if you’d like. There’s less “sourdough-ness” and not as many bigger holes in the crumb, but still tastes great!

  14. Jami,
    I have made this bread twice now, but I don’t have an enamel dutch oven, only stainless steel. Have you baked it in a stainless steel pot? I have baked the bread on preheated pizza stones and the crust is delicious, but I do not have the large crumb factor going. Small crumb and somewhat dense. Any suggestions?

    Rose

  15. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Rose- I’ve never tried stainless- the enamel is what America’s test kitchen recommended, I’m assuming because the lid is heavy and steam can’t escape so it stays in to create that good artisan crust. I don’t think it would hurt to try. :-)

    Also, I find I have much bigger crumb after the dough has time to “sour” in the fridge for 3-4 days. If you’re using regular whole wheat flour, it will make the crumb denser, too. Try the whole wheat pastry or just all-purpose to see if there’s a difference. It’s a lot of trial and error to see what you like best!

    -Jami

  16. Yum! I will be making this ASAP! Thanks for the great recipe!

  17. I have heard that you must preheat your stone in your oven or it will crack due to the sudden temperature change. In fact, I recall reading this in an Food day article for no-knead bread. I wonder if that had something to do with your stone cracking?

    I have a non-glazed Pampered Chef stoneware bowl and wonder if it would work to bake the bread it…if I preheated it. I am very excited to try this bread.
    I love bread and I as a recent follower of your blog I must say that I am really enjoying it!

  18. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Linda- You may be right about the cracking- it’s been so long now I can’t remember what I did. :-)

    I’d say experiment with it- I think it should work… AND I just read about Gina’s method over at homejoys.blogspot.com where she puts a roasting pan lid over the bread to hold in the steam, similar to the enamel pot idea of my method. See what works with what you have!

  19. What size dutch oven should one use?

  20. What size dutch oven oven is appropriate?

    • Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says:

      I use a 6-qt, just because that was the size available when I bought mine at Walmart a few years ago. I also always use half the dough, making bigger loaves than the 5-minute a day book. If you make 3 or 4 smaller loaves out of a batch, a 3 or 4-qt. pot would work, too.

  21. I just made this recipe–easy and quite tasty. I cut the recipe in half and immediately baked a loaf and served with freshly made basil butter. YUM!!. I will wait a few days to make the other loaf so I get that sourdough taste. Thank you for a great recipe!

  22. This was super easy and good. My son asked, “Why haven’t you done this before?” I made mine in a large Walmart enamel dutch oven which I bough specifically for this. LOVE <3

  23. Anonymous says:

    I’m making this now…in rising stage…I’ll be using an unfinished terra cotta pan which I ‘seasoned’ for 24 hours (this is done for first time use) and then prepped with vegetable oil so I could use it tonight to bake the bread . I smell the sourdough aroma as it rises.

  24. This looks easier than the Book instructions. Can’t wait to try the dutch oven method. Thank you for this post.

  25. This looks amazing! I would like to try the recipe and wonder if I can bake the bread in an enamel turkey roaster?

    • Not sure how that would work, Christine, but a friend of mine bakes artisan bread on a pizza stone and covers it the first 15 min. with a roasting pan cover. Would that work for you?

  26. This is so good. I also love to add white chocolate chips with craisins, or some chopped garlic with some chopped jalepenos. Yummy, any way.

  27. This bread looks delicious! I prefer to make my own bread when I can…I like the idea of adding some cheddar and jalapeno into the mix :)

  28. I just tried making this bread. I decided to let it “age” for 3 days in the fridge, so as to keep it from being too sour, but it’s still pretty strong tasting. Is that normal? My family isn’t used to sourdough, though, so maybe it’s just us. Also, it had a really small crumb and was pretty dense, but I’m guessing that’s from the higher percentage of whole wheat flour I used (I used 4.5 cups whole wheat and 2 cups white flour, so inverted from your original recipe). Anyways, I’ll keep playing with it. Bread can be so complicated! Especially when I’m trying to make it as high in whole wheat as possible.

    • Yes, I’ve found the more WW flour you add, the more dense the bread. Keeping the dough as “wet” as possible helps create interior holes as well. If you don’t want too much of a sour taste, bake the bread on the first or second day. It gets more ‘sour-y’ the longer it sits in the fridge. And, yes, keep trying different ways to make a loaf your whole family likes. :)

  29. I made one recipe into two pizzas. I pre-baked them for five minutes at 450 and then 20 minutes at 350 w/ toppings on. I recommend poking holes throughout the dough to avoid huge bubbles developing. this made for a thick crusted pizza.

  30. Dorothy says:

    This was my first time making bread. I was so excited when it rose on the counter, but then when I put it in the fridge it shrunk back down again. Is that normal? It barely rose at all when I baked the first loaf. Yummy, but dense. I made a small loaf so I have three more chances, I think maybe I didn’t bake it long enough.

    • It does shrink a bit in the fridge, but should rise again at room temp – try leaving it on the counter longer and see if that helps, Dorothy.

  31. What size enamel pot do you use? Does it have to be enamel or can it be cast iron only?
    I love your site and pictures!

    • Hi Debbie! The pot pictured is a 6-quart enameled cast iron pot. It doesn’t need to be that big, though – a 4 or 5 qt. would work as well. I’ve read of others who use a plain cast iron, so it should probably work!

  32. Hi! I have been wanting to try your artisan bread recipe but am a bit confused. In your update you said that you used 2 C whole wheat and 4 1/2 C white but in the actual recipe the old measurements are in parenthesis for the flours and the new measurements for salt and yeast are in the parenthesis. Is this correct? I want to try making the bread but want to make sure I understand correctly. I would appreciate any clarification. Thanks!

    • When I updated the salt and yeast measurements – the new are in the parentheses – I also updated the flours to reflect how I made it then with more equal WW to Unbleached measurements. Feel free to make this with any variety of flour you find your family likes – all unbleached, the 4 to 2 1/2-c. measurement or the 3 to 3 1/2-c. – it won’t matter. The loaf is lightest with all unbleached, obviously, and my family has become okay with adding more WW, but some may not like the heavier crumb it creates. Play around with it and see what your family likes. But do use the lower amounts of yeast and salt, ’cause I think it’s better for us and the initial dough doesn’t rise as crazily. :)

      • Thank you so much for the additional info Jami! I am ready to go mix up some bread! I discovered your site this summer when I was looking for a recipe for individual berry cobblers. I made 65 for my son’s wedding rehearsal dinner and they were a huge hit! I’ve been following you ever since and want to say “thank you” and I love your ideas and recipes. Carlye in Central Oregon

  33. I stumbled upon your recipe and plan to try it soon. I also have the Walmart enamel cast iron pot, and wonder if you’ve had issues with the knob melting in the oven when baking at 450? I heard that it would melt, so I removed my knob and plugged the hole with foil, but it’s a pain to remove the lid that way. I’d rather just replace the old knob. Just wondering. Thanks for a great recipe and clear directions!

    • I’ve not had a problem, Jen, and I’ve been using it now for a couple of years on a regular basis. I did know that they didn’t recommend it, but that’s what I bought it for, so I went ahead and used it like I needed. Hope it does okay for you – that would be hard to lift the heavy, hot lid without the knob!

  34. Melissa says:

    I’m excited to try this recipe, but I don’t have a dutch oven. I’ve heard that you can just fill your broiler pan with water and place it on the bottom rack for steam purposes. Has anyone tried that method before? It seem like it should work, going to give it a try. Thanks so much for the recipe :)

    • Sure, Melissa – I used to do it that way, it’s just easier with the dutch oven to get the good crust. You can also mist the bread with water before putting it in the oven. Just be careful if you use a baking stone and water in a pan – the steam broke my stone when I tried it. I think it was too close to it, so leave a space between the pan of water and your stone. :)

  35. I was born in Germany and came to the US from Bavaria as a teenager in the mid 1950s. My brother in law had a bakery/confectionery cafe. They made sour dough bread that took 33 days to make. It was delicious. My biggest disappointment when I arrived in the US was the bread. There was only factory made white bread at the time.
    I am happy that this has changed during the last 50 years.
    I was ecstatic when a Walmart Super Center opened within a short driving distance from me several years ago and had ‘Sourdough just like in Bavaria’. I love Sourdough bread. My preference is a heavier doughier texture without holes.
    My age and dental issues limit me to a soft crust. Tough chewy, or hard and brittle crusts are out.
    When the Walmart Super Center first opened, I could get exactly that type of freshly baked bread.
    Within 3 weeks it became scarce. I could only find some early, first thing in the morning on certain days. After another 6 weeks it disappeared totally.
    I found other higher end food stores that had the exact bread I preferred, but within several months it was replace with ‘Twice baked’ bread branded as ‘Fresh baked’. No one admits this, but this type of bread (also rolls) arrives pre-baked without a perceptible crust at the stores. The stores then ‘bake’ it, instead of just warming it. This twice baked bread make for a brittle thick crust, which not only kills the bread eating experience, but also my sore gums.

    I have recently purchased a 6 quart professional ‘Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer’ with the intend of making my own ‘Dense, heavy texture, sourdough bread (without holes or minimum holes in the bread).

    Is it possible for you to post recipe adjustments which would result in the type of bread I and maybe other seniors prefer?
    And is it possible to to make it instantly without the 3 day wait but retaining the slightly sour taste?

    • That’s the first time I’ve been asked that, Dee! Most people are looking for a light, airy and hole-y texture. :) I think your solution to make your own is a great one. Yes, you can make this bread immediately, but it won’t taste sour – and if fact only has the slightest sour taste after sitting in the fridge awhile. I do have a sourdough artisan bread recipe (check the recipe index) that uses a starter. With most of these breads, you can create a softer crust by just baking regularly on a cookie sheet (no enamel pot, spraying water or anything) and a trick I use for softer sandwich bread is to wrap the loaf in a towel as it’s cooling, which may work for this bread, too. And you can pretty much make any bread more dense by using less water. :) Have fun experimenting!

      • Thank You Jamie.
        Where I said:”They made sour dough bread that took 33 days to make”, I meant 3 days. I noticed my typo right after posting, but found no way to edit.
        I should also have mentioned that they used to let the dough rise and then kneaded it down again to remove air bubbles. They did this cycle once a day for each of 3 days. It was explained to that this was done to get all air bubbles out to make denser bread.
        Having accepted this reasoning as logical, I had been searching for an automatic machine which would compress the dough inside a cavity, to remove the air bubbles.

        Questions:
        1. Does this explanation for deleting air bubbles in the dough sound reasonable to you?
        It was after all over 65 years ago. I do however remember many details back to even 72 years ago when I was 1 1/2 years old.

        2. If any of your readers have ever heard of this or similar air removal process, can someone verify and confirm?

        3. If there is such a machine that compress/kneads bread dough could someone point it out?

        :) Thanks in advance

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