I owe my love of homemade bread to my friends Andrew and Shelley, who introduced me to the book "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day." (see link at the bottom of the page). It changed my life. No seriously, it did. I have not purchased frozen bread dough, pizza dough kits, or any breads from the local grocery store bakery since I bought this book. What's better, is that I make bread at least 2 times a week, most weeks. How, you ask do I have this much time and energy? Well, the simply answer is: I don't. This book, which you all must buy, is full of delicious recipes that require NO kneading. Better yet, the book is based off of 3 or 4 basic recipes with which you can then add and build to make delicious artisan breads.
The beauty of this recipe is that once you mix the dough, you have enough for about 4-6 loaves. All you have to do throughout the week is pull it out of the refrigerator, shape it, let it rise, and bake! You can use the same dough over the next 14 days.
3 cups lukewarm water*
1 1/2 Tbspn granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 Tbsp corase salt (I use kosher)
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
cornmeal for pizza peel
You can make this recipe either by hand, with a mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, or with a 14 cup or larger food processor. I have tried all three ways. I prefer using my mixer so that is how I will narrate my directions; however, at the bottom of the page I will give tips for the by hand and food processor methods.
Pour water in mixer bowl, add yeast, salt. Measure flour using the "sweep and scoop method." Simply scoop flour from bag or canister, then sweep the top level with a knife or spatula; do not press down on the flour or the measurements will be off and your dough will be too dry. Add all flour to mixer. Turn mixture on medium-low and mix until dough is uniform. Your dough will have a wet look and consistency
Cover dough with lid (not airtight) and allow mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (about 2 hours).** You can use a portion of the dough anytime after this period (which I normally do because I'm impatient:) If you have the time (are not impatient like me) refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours before forming into a loaf.
When yo are reading to bake your bread, prepare a pizza peel (or cutting board if you don't have a pizza peel) by sprinkling with cornmeal. Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Putt up and cut off a grapefruit-size piece of dough using a serrated knife. Hold the mass of of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around and to the bottom of the ball on all four sides. Place the dough on the pizza peel and allow it to rise for about 40 minutes.
Pre heat oven to 450. Adjust rack to middle position and place baking stone on rack (if you are using a baking sheet, no need to put it in ahead of time). Dust dough and slash with serrated knife as shown below.
* you want the water to feel a bit warmer than body temperature. Warm water will allow the dough to rise properly in two hours. You can add cold tap water and get the same results it will just take 3-5 hours.
** You can allow your dough to rise 5 hours (regardless of water temperature) without harming end results.
*** I usually just fill a pie pan with one cup of water and place it on a rack beneath the dough.
You can also mix with a wooden spoon. Its a bit more grunt work, but it works the same. Use a wooden spoon until you can't mix anymore and then wet your hands and mix the dough, just remember do NOT knead.
Finally, you can use a food processor; however, I found you have to add the water in batches instead of all at once in the beginning, because when you start the processor, the water goes over the fill line and leaks all over your kitchen counters and floors. Trust me on this one!