Simple Crusty Bread

I’ve been meaning to post about this bread for a long time, but I hadn’t actually made it in over a year.  Back when I was still doing Moveable Feast dinners with Alix (of the fantastic Cute + Delicious blog), she sent this recipe to me for our Spanish feast.

I came back to this recipe because Ryan and I are starting to make plans for our Oscar party.  We usually do puns on the names of the films nominated for best picture to inspire dishes, but this year we’re contemplating mixing it up and also doing dishes inspired by the films themselves – mainly because I think that for Les Mis, it’s gotta be a loaf of bread, pure and simple.

This bread is incredibly easy to make, but you do need to allow time for rising and resting the dough.  The photo above is right after I mixed the dough.  Once it rises it expands to almost fill the container.

And the best part is that this recipe makes several loaves, depending on the size of each, and you can also store the dough in the fridge for up to two weeks, which means fresh baked bread whenever you feel like it.

If you’re intimidated at the thought of making bread from scratch, don’t be.  I’m far from a bread-making expert, and I think this recipe is very forgiving.  The more you work with yeast doughs, the more comfortable you’ll be.

Here’s the recipe as it appeared in The New York Times version that I used.  (And if you’re in the LA area and might be wondering about whether or not Moveable Feasts will be coming back, stay tuned…)

Simple Crusty Bread

Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)
Time: About 45 minutes plus about 3 hours’ resting and rising
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1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
Cornmeal
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In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
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Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Yield: 4 loaves.

Variation: If not using stone, stretch rounded dough into oval and place in a greased, nonstick loaf pan. Let rest 40 minutes if fresh, an extra hour if refrigerated. Heat oven to 450 degrees for 5 minutes. Place pan on middle rack.

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6 Responses to “Simple Crusty Bread”

  1. I was just looking for a new bread recipe to try today, so I used this to make two loaves (halved the recipe and replaced part of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat) and they turned out great with so little effort! Thank you for posting this :)

  2. WOW. Just made this and it was INCREDIBLE. I can’t believe this came out of my oven!! Looks and tastes like it came from the best European bakery in town. And it was SO EASY. This recipe will be a part of my cooking repetoire permanently.

  3. Hi, Lisa! I’m so glad you liked the recipe. I felt the same way you did – I couldn’t believe how easy it was and how tasty the bread was!

  4. This is so simple, I love it. I can finally start cutting myself off from buying bread at the store. Are there any other baking cookbooks you would recommend besides the one in your post? Thanks!

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