I love bread… and when I say I love bread, I mean LOVE bread. Not the white, soft, tasteless toast bread that seems to be abundant in the grocery stores, but the crunchy crusty outside, doughy and full of flavor inside bread… bread that reminds me of the kind that you would find in Germany and Europe. Real bread… oh how I love it. The thing is, I’ve found that most stores seem to stock up on the soft crust, flavorless kind of bread… and depending on the brand, they charge a pretty penny for it too.
I’ve baked bread in the past, but it wasn’t better than what you can find in the store. That all changed about a month ago… I found a recipe that looked good and gave it a try… with a few tweaks to fit both the needs of our family and to perfect the taste, I think I can safely say that I finally have the perfect bread recipe for our family.
Easy Artisan Bread
3 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp yeast
2 1/4 tsp sea salt
* In a large bowl, add together warm water and yeast. Let sit for 15 minutes.
* Add flour and salt to the yeast mixture. Using a utensil of your choice (I personally use a silicone spatula) mix all ingredients together. You don’t need to knead the dough.
* If your bowl has a lid, now is the time to put it on loosely. If it doesn’t have a lid, that’s okay. You can also cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel.
* Let your dough sit out for a few hours so it can rise. I let mine sit on the counter for at least 5 hours. It will double (or more) in size and then slowly deflate a little.
* Once the dough has deflated, you can form and bake it. I strongly suggest you don’t do that just yet though. Instead, put it in the fridge and let it rest there overnight… your bread will be moister and taste better if you do.
* When you’re ready to bake your bread, put a cookie sheet on the center rack of your oven and the broiler pan the bottom rack. Then pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.
* Lightly flour the top of your dough and your work surface. With floured hands, take your dough and form it into a rectangular shape, dusting the dough with flour as needed keep from sticking.
* Using a knife, cut a line down the center of your loaf. This will so the bottom of the bread from splitting open.
* Make sure that the bottom of your loaf is well floured, and place on the cookie sheet. Right before you close the oven, pour 1 – 2 cups of warm water into the broiling pan, and quickly close the door to trap the steam.
* Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is a nice shade of brown. Personally, I prefer to bake the bread for 40 minutes to get a nice crunchy crust.
The hardest part is waiting at least 30 minutes to let the bread cool off before cutting into it! You do want to wait though because if you cut the load to soon the inside will become a doughy mess.
My family and I love this bread! One loaf will typically last two days in our house. The kids love eating it by the slice, without anything on it. It’s also great to eat dipped into olive oil and parmesan cheese, topped with only butter, or as a sandwich.
One last tip, once you cut into your bread, don’t wrap it in plastic wrap or put it into a plastic storage bag. If you do that the crust will become soft. Instead, just set your bread on a cutting block, with the cut side down against the block. We’ve been doing this for the past two months and it works great!