I love this bread, and it's about the easiest thing in the world to make! Perfect for Sunday afternoon when you have a little time. I forgot to take a picture of the finished product, but you get the idea!
Easy Artisan Bread
from the book "Artisan Bread in Five minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
Makes 4 one pound loaves, unused dough can stay in the fridge in a lidded container for up to 14 days.
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tbs granulated yeast (any kind)
1 1/2 Tbs Morton's kosher salt
6 1/2 cups (2 pounds) unbleached all-purpose flour
Mixing the dough:
In a 5 quart bowl, dump in the water and add the yeast and salt. Because we are mixing in the flour so quickly it doesn't matter that the salt and yeast are thrown in together.
Dump in the flour. Stir until all of the flour is incorporated into the dough, it will be a wet rough dough.
Put the lid on the container, but do not snap it shut. You want the gases from the yeast to escape.
Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours to rise. When you first mix the dough it will not occupy much of the container. But, after the initial 2 hour rise it will have doubled in size Do not punch down the dough! Just let it settle.
The dough can be used right after the initial 2 hour rise, but it is much easier to handle when it is chilled. It is intended for refrigeration and use over the next two weeks, ready for you anytime. ( iIt gets a little iffy around day 13-14, so use before then).
About 1 1/2 hours before dinner:
Pull the dough out of the refrigerator. Dust the surface of the dough with a little flour, just enough to prevent it from sticking to your hands when you reach in to pull a piece out. You should notice that the dough has a lot of stretch once it has rested.
Cut off a 1-pound piece of dough using a serrated knife and form it into a ball. (Don't handle the dough too much, just shape it into a ball and smooth the front of the dough by pulling dough to the back). Place the ball on a silpat (or some parchment paper) and let it rise for about 40 minutes. No big deal if it sits for 60 or 90 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a metal cookie sheet/roasting tray on the bottom rack (never use a glass vessel for this or it will shatter), which will be used to produce steam. Let it preheat for 20 minutes.
Cut the loaf with 1/4 inch slashes using a serrated knife in a tic-tac-toe pattern. (If your slashes are too shallow you will end up with an oddly shaped loaf and also prevent it from splitting on the bottom).
Before you place your bread in the oven, dump a cup of hot water into the cookie sheet/roasting pan you placed on the bottom rack (be forewarned, sometimes this causes the pan to warp). Then place your bread in the oven (on it's cookie sheet or silpat) on an upper or middle rack and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a deep brown color.
Allow the loaf to cool for a bit before serving.