Sunday, May 20, 2012

Artisan Bread

Artisan Bread is the best thing since, well, artisan bread!  It is so yummy--chewy, yet sort of soft, with a great crust.

To make Artisan Bread you need:
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur's--after all, they live in the next town south)
1 1/2 Tablespoons dry yeast
1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
3 cups tepid water

Mix all together in a large bowl (are a covered bucket from the Coop's recycled bucket corner) and stir together with a spoon.  Be SURE to stir in ALL the flour in the bottom of the bowl or you will have icky hard spots in your finished bread.  Just to be sure you have mixed in all the flour into the water, wet your clean hand and arm and give a few good swipes at the dough, picking up any flour that was left and mix it in by hand.  Wash hand and arm immediately.

Cover the bowl/bucket and let sit on the counter at room temperature for two hours.  At the end of two hours, particularly if you are edgy for some great bread,  you can then shape your loaves.  This will make four small round loaves or two larger loaves or one pretty good-sized loaf.

Before shaping, put a piece of parchment paper on a baking pan to receive the loaf.  To shape,  quickly, but gently, form into a ball by rotating the ball a quarter turn or so at a time.  The top/outside should be nice and smooth...but be GENTLE and BE QUICK!  Don't overwork the dough.  Gently put the ball down on your parchment-lined pan and let rise for 30 minutes then turn the oven on to preheat at 450 degrees.  By the time the oven is pre-heated the bread will be ready-but ONLY if you have let the dough rise 30 minutes before you turn on the oven!

When the oven is ready/hot, with a sharp knife slash 3 diagonal lines across the top of the loaf and slide into the oven to cook for 30 minutes.  If you want to be fancy, you can make an egg wash or a cornstarch and water wash, brush the wash onto the dough before slashing then sprinkle on your favorite seeds, like sesame, poppy, or caraway.  Go wild and try something else.  Anyway, after the wash and seeds, give the diagonal slashes and pop the bread in the oven to bake.

When the bread is baked,  let it cool on a rack until completely cool, if you have the self-control.  If no control,  give it at least 5 minutes to cool so you won't totally burn your fingers, then cut off the end slice (by FAR the best part of the bread) and slather it with real butter.  Never, never, NEVER use margarine or fake stuff on this bread.  If you have some butter issues, the get a great olive oil bread dipping sauce, but don't ever ruin the bread by using that garbage-y nasty fake butter-type stuff which was invented during the war.  Never mind what someone tells you about how bad dairy butter is.  The fake stuff is worse.  Just use olive oil if you can't bring yourself to use butter.

Try not to eat the whole loaf yourself.  That IS bad for you...

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