Saturday, March 6, 2010

CRUSTY ARTISAN COUNTRY BREAD – a simple living recipe - weeks of ready cook dough for minutes of effort


I recently made a call for people to return to cooking from scratch I realize that one cannot simply make the decision and immediately become a good cook. But the process is not that complicated either. Once you find a few recipes you like, practice them, soon you will find that you have taken your first steps to success.

Bread used to be called the staff of life. That is, it was a healthy basic food that most people ate with every meal. Today, sadly, what was once a sturdy staff of nutritional support is now a broken, empty reed. This bread recipe is a giant step on that process. It is easy, time efficient and cheap recipe for crusty breads and it can become a staple of many meals. Now this is not going to be the spun angel hair of American factory sandwich breads. Nor will it be the vague kind of “sort of” bread that we find in grocery store bakeries. This recipe will produce substantial, firm and weighty loaves with a thick crust bursting with flavor. Nothing calls to mind the joys of simple living like the smell of baking bread. Making our own bread is a giant step to self sustenance if for no other reason that the huge psychological reward you get eating bread made by your own hands. To paraphrase: Flour? – a few pennies; time? – yours to give; homemade bread? – priceless.

This recipe also has additional advantages for the beginner. It does not call for any real kneading of the dough and it has a very simple preparation technique. Also, it has something for those of us trying to learn how to slow down from fast food and take time for real meals. This recipe prepares a large batch of dough in a few easy steps and best of all the dough can be kept in the refrigerator and fresh loaves baked from it for up to two weeks. The bread actually tastes better late in the process as it develops some sour dough characteristics.

Ok, so what is this magic process? Here it is in a few simple steps. It is basically a version of the French “boule” – boule means ball. It is the easiest method to master and can be the stepping stone to learning other more complex recipes. A one to two week supply of dough is made in less than 15 minutes of work. Then whenever you feel like fresh bread you cut off a piece, let it rise for 40 minutes then bake and enjoy. Your house will spell wonderful and you will enjoy homemade food the way your grandparents did. Plus, no one need know that you did not spend hours – it can be our little secret.


6 ½ cups unsifted, all purpose flour

3 cups lukewarm water

1 ½ tablespoon yeast

1 ½ tablespoon salt

Cornmeal for the baking stone or baking sheet


1) heat the water to 100 degrees F, just above body temperature – so lukewarm to the touch

2) Add salt and yeast to the water in a large (5 or 6 quart) bowl. You can also do this directly in a resalable storage container of the same size to save time and steps.

3) Gently mix in the flour with a wooden spoon (can uses a mixer dough hook- but no need)

4) Mix together, if the spoon bogs down, use wet hands to mix gently

5) Cover loosely with a damp dishcloth or plastic wrap

6) Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature for around 2 to 4 hours (5 max)

7) Cover with lid (not airtight) and refrigerate


1) After at least 3 to 4 hours in the refrigerator, you can use the dough any time you want fresh bread

2) Cut off a 1 pound piece – about the size of a grapefruit

3) Place the ball on a baking sheet or stone dusted lightly with some cornmeal ( the corn meal prevents sticking and adds crunch to the crust)

4) Allow the dough to rest uncovered for 40 minutes (it may rise very little – do not panic)

5) 20 minutes before you bake – preheat the oven to 450 degrees

6) Place the baking pan or stone in the middle rack. Place an empty broiler pan in the lower rack

7) When ready to bake, coat the top with flour. Slash a ¼ inch deep cross or tic tac toe pattern on the top of the loaf. The flour prevents the knife from sticking and the cross cuts allow the bread to expand

8) Place the pan or stone in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes or until the crust is well browned.

The master dough will remain good in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Over time it will develop a mild sourdough character. Any time you wish fresh bread, simply cut off a piece and follow the baking instructions. Also, you can divide the dough into one pound units, wrap well and freeze. To use frozen dough you will have to thaw it in the fridge overnight and then follow the baking procedures as normal.

I have to say, I left out a few steps which do help to make this bread even better, but I did so in the cause of getting more people to try it. This is meant to be the first step on the path to being a home baker. It is a simple living essential that pays back greatly on the time and effort you spend. One thing that really is worth the trouble is buying a baking stone. They really make a difference and the bread is even better if you heat the stone before baking the bread. But, the basic method will still produce bread far superior to factory food.

I have given you the first step on the path to real (dare I say extreme) home cooking. It really couldn’t be easier than this. Also, it is very, very cheap, way less than 50 cents a load versus what 6 dollars at the store. The smell will reward you while you’re baking and the taste will reward you until you gobble down the last crumb. Remember, this is country bread. It is not supposed to be light and fluffy. It is the real deal and it may not work well with peanut butter and jelly, But team it with butter, cheese, or soup and things will seem a littel better in the world. I really hope you all try it at least once. You will not believe the results.  Bread making is an heirloom skill worth learning and can be the cornerstone of a simple life. Let's make bread a staff of life once again.


  1. This reminds me so much of the time Tracie and I spent, quite a while back now, in cute aprons making bread in her kitchen. And I must agree, even though it wasn't in my own house, just the process and act of eating bread you just made is amazing. I was just so blown away by how easy it was, how awesome it tasted and just the wonder, "I Made Bread!!!"
    You've got me so psyched I'm trying really hard to keep myself from trying this in my hotel room.
    "When you get home! Wait till you get home!"

  2. Love to bake from scratch! I just learned this method this week! It's wonderful, versatile, forgiving dough with a pleasant slightly sour, complex flavor. You can make anything from a boule to a loaf baked in a pan, to pizza, to foccacia, with minor variations in technique or ingredients. I used a version with part whole wheat, plus a little vital wheat gluten to help the rise and make a less dense bread (optional but makes a moist, soft crumb). Smells so good!


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