A few months ago my mom told me about this recipe that was “the easiest and most delicious bread I’d ever make.” I didn’t believe it until I tasted a piece of it when Robert and I went home for Easter weekend. It tasted like La Brea bread-it was that good! My mom got the recipe from my Aunt Molly, who got it from her daughter, Hadley (kind of complicated, I know). It came from the cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, written by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. The particular bread I make is “The Master Recipe,” but there are several other mouthwatering bread recipes in the book as well. The Master Recipe is incredibly versatile and can be adapted into several different kinds of bread. In fact, we like to use it for homemade pizza. There are only 4 ingredients in the dough and it keeps in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
I highly recommend this book to any novice or experienced baker out there who wants to enjoy fresh, homemade bread at the drop of a hat. The recipe may sound intimidating initially, but it really is very simple once you get the hang of it!
Click here for a link to a YouTube Video of the authors demonstrating the process
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 Tbsp granulated yeast (2 packets)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
- 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose flour
- cornmeal for pizza peel
1. Warm the water slightly (I zap it for about 50 seconds in the microwave). It should be just a little warmer than the body.
2. Add the yeast and salt to the water in a large, resealable, lidded plastic food container (I use an empty Whale of Pale ice cream container my mom gave me).
3. Mix in the flour- kneading is unnecessary. Add all of the flour at once. Mix it with a wooden spoon, a high-capacity food processor (14 cups or larger) with a dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the mixture is uniform. If you’re hand mixing and it becomes to difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, you can reach into your mixing vessel with very wet hands and press the mixture together. Don’t knead! You’re finished when everything is uniformly moist.
4. Allow to rise: Cover with a lid (not airtight) that fits well to the container you’re using. Do not use screw-topped bottles or Mason jars, which could explode from the trapped gases. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), between 2-5 hours. After this, you can either use a portion of this dough right away or put it in the fridge.
5. Cloak the dough with flour: When you are ready to bake the bread, prepare a pizza peel or cutting board by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal tor prevent your loaf from sticking to it when you slide it in the oven. Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a grapefruit-size hunk of dough, using a serrated knife. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Shape it in the desired shape you want your bread. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Liberally dust the entire ball of dough with flour- this is the “cloak” and it makes the outside crusty and the inside of the bread soft and chewy. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough. The entire process shouldn’t take more than 30 to 60 seconds.
6. Rest the loaf and let it rise on the pizza peel or cutting board: Allow the loaf to rest on the pizza peel or cutting board for about 40 minutes.
7. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread.
8. Right before you place the dough in the oven, dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour and slash the top of the dough about 1/4-inch deep with a serrated knife.
9. After 20 minutes of preheating, place the dough onto the stone with a quick forward jerking motion. Quickly, but carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack.
10. Store the remaining dough in the fridge in your lidded (not airtight) container and us it over the next 14 days!
Enjoy (with or without my mom’s homemade raspberry jam)!