Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Master Recipe

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Copyright 2007
by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
Master Recipe: Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)

Freshly baked bread is one of those luxuries that many people merely dream about. Sure, you can pick it up in a bakery (for 5 or 6 dollars a loaf), and some whip it up easily enough in a bread machine, turning out a crust that is soft and fairly unappealing. But baking up loaves of bread completely from scratch can be rather intimidating to the home cook.

With a lot of experimentation, bread enthusiast Hertzberg and pastry chef Francois have uncovered the secret to making Artisan free-form loaves of crusty bread in just five minutes a day. The five minutes, refers to the time needed to mix and form the loaves (and excludes the time needed for resting and baking). I mixed up a large batch of chicken noodle soup this past week, and decided to try out a little homemade bread baking using this five-minute method- making the cover recipe of The Master Recipe- an Artisan Free-Form Loaf. A completely inexperienced bread baker myself, I found that the method was very easy to follow. I appreciated the fact that the instructions were explicit, yet simple, and though they’re long… the method really was very quick and effortless. The freshly baked loaf was just as they describe in their book… crusty exterior and perfectly baked inside. It was quite a good bread for dunking into chicken noodle soup..

See my notes below to see what I thought of this recipe…

artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day master recipe

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The Master Recipe: Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)

Yield: Makes four 1-pound loaves.  The recipe is easily doubled or halved.

Ingredients:

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
cornmeal

Directions:

Mixing and Storing the Dough
1.  Warm the water slightly:
  It should feel just a little warmer than body temperature, about 100 degrees F.
2.  Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart bowl or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container.  Don't worry about getting it all to dissolve.
3.  Mix in the flour- kneading is unnecessary:  Add all of the flour at once, measuring it in with dry-ingredient measuring cups, by gently scooping up flour, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula.  Mix with a wooden spoon, a high capacity food processor (14 cups or larger) fitted with the dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the mixture is uniform.  If you're hand mixing and it becomes too difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, you can reach into your mixing bowl with very wet hands and press the mixture together.  Don't knead- it isn't necessary.  You're finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches.  This step should only take a matter of minutes, and should yield a dough that is wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.
4.  Allow to rise:  Cover with a lid (not airtight).  Don't use any screw-top jars, which could explode from trapped gases.  Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on top), approximately 2 hours, depending on the room's temperature and the initial water temperature.  Longer rising times (up to 5 hours) will not harm the result.  You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period.  Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature.  The authors recommend that the first time you try this recipe, you refrigerate the dough overnight (or at least 3 hours) before shaping a loaf.

On Baking Day
5.  The gluten cloak:  don't knead, just "cloak" and shape a loaf in 30 to 60 seconds.  First prepare a pizza peel (or a cookie sheet or cutting board) by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven.  Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour.  Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece of dough, using a serrated knife.  Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't stick to your hands.  Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.  Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it's not intended to be incorporated into the dough.  The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out and adhere during resting and baking.  The final product with be smooth and cohesive.  The entire process in this step should take no longer than 30 to 60 seconds.
6.  Rest the loaf and let it rise on a pizza peel:  Place shaped ball on cornmeal-covered pizza peel.  Allow the loaf to rest on the peel for about 40 minutes (it doesn't need to be covered).  You may not see much rise during this period; more rise will occur during baking.
7.  Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F., with a baking stone placed on the middle rack.  Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising of the bread.
8.  Dust and slash:  Dust the top of the loaf liberally with the flour, which will allow the slashing knife to pass without sticking.  Slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross, scallop, or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife.
9.  Baking with steam:  After a 20 minute preheat, you're ready to bake.  With a quick forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off of your cornmeal covered surface and onto the preheated baking stone.  Quickly but carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water from the tap into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch.  Because you've  used wet dough, there is little risk of drying out the interior, despite the dark crust.  Allow the loaf to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack.
10.  Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next 14 days.  The dough "matures" over the 14 day period, improving flavor and texture of your bread.  Cut off, shape and bake more loaves as you need them.

Tips:

*I halved the recipe and ended up baking up two loaves within the week.
*I didn't have a pizza peel, so I used a cutting board coated with cornmeal to let the bread rise. The first loaf I made, I didn't use enough cornmeal and my dough stuck a bit to the board. I had to knudge it onto the pizza stone and it looked a little mishapen and wobbly. When it came out of the oven though, it was a perfectly baked round loaf. On my second try, I made sure to coat my board liberally with cornmeal and had no trouble at all sliding it onto my pizza stone.
*Since you can cut off as big a piece of dough as you want to bake, the method is perfect for large and small families alike.
*I'm excited to try out other recipes in the book using the base dough- from other rustic loaves and rolls to sweet treats.

The results:

Wow. I may never buy bread again! It was so neat to have the dough ready to go in my refrigerator for making fresh bread. The baked result is fantastic.

Did this recipe deserve the cover spotlight?

Of course!  It’s the recipe that is used as the base model for all of the breads in the book, so it makes complete sense.

Lori is the founder of RecipeGirl.com. She's a professional recipe developer and food writer, and she's the author of The Recipe Girl Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: April 2013). Beyond food, Lori enjoys traveling, being outdoors, running, and maybe even singing a little karaoke. The mountains near Lake Tahoe are home for Lori and her husband of 18 years. They have an 12 year-old son who blogs at RecipeBoy.com.

35 Responses to “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Master Recipe”

  1. 1

    Peter — October 19, 2009 @ 4:24 am

    I’m a convert…this book is in my Top 5…make bread each week…gorgeous…it’s home!

  2. 2

    VeggieGirl — October 19, 2009 @ 6:19 am

    Fabulous bread!

  3. 3

    Michelle — October 19, 2009 @ 6:57 am

    Okay, I’m a confessed yeast-phobic, but now you’ve got me wanting to check out this book. Maybe I could do this after all! Thanks!

  4. 4

    megan — October 19, 2009 @ 6:58 am

    I’m so happy the cooler weather is here so I dig out that book again. Your loaf is gorgeous and inspires me to get on with it!

  5. 5

    Leigh Anne Wilkes — October 19, 2009 @ 7:36 am

    Just made this bread for a dinner party this weekend – it never fails and is always a huge hit!

  6. 6

    noble pig — October 19, 2009 @ 7:36 am

    I bake tis bread every single day and use for sandwich bread. I can’t tell you the last time I bought a commercial loaf.

  7. 7

    Donalyn — October 19, 2009 @ 8:10 am

    Great post – this bread is the bomb!

  8. 8

    Zoë François — October 19, 2009 @ 9:24 am

    Hi Lori,
    Your loaf is stunning! :) I’m so pleased that you tried the recipe and had such gorgeous results. I’ll look forward to hearing about all the bread you bake.

    Happy baking! Zoë

  9. 9

    Nancy — October 19, 2009 @ 9:54 am

    I LOVE your new blog!! I don’t know how many times I’ve been drawn to a cover recipe only to discover that I really don’t care at all for the recipe..and sometimes it’s like the cover HAS to be a totally different recipe than what it turns out to be! And then my other problem is – the cover recipe is the ONLY recipe I like in the whole book or magazine! ; ) I love the two recipes you’ve chosen so far and can’t wait to see what’s next. I already love your other post and have made many of your recipes.

  10. 10

    Jenny Flake — October 19, 2009 @ 12:07 pm

    Beautiful post Lori, that bread is gorgeous and looks so delish!

  11. 11

    Maria — October 19, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

    We love ABin5 bread. It is so easy and I love having fresh bread on hand:) I can’t wait for their new book!

  12. 12

    Barbara Bakes — October 19, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

    Love the new site! I have this great book! I was thinking of making bread sticks to go with some minestrone, but you bread looks so tasty, I think I’ll go start some right now!

  13. 13

    Stacey Snacks — October 19, 2009 @ 2:54 pm

    RG (or should I now call you “Cover Girl”?),
    I don’t know how you have time to bake all those wonderful treats and have 2 blogs!
    I like this new concept and will check back often!
    Stacey

  14. 14

    Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. — October 19, 2009 @ 9:54 pm

    This is great that you’re doing this. Testing the recipes again, in a way, so we don’t waste our time and money on recipes that don’t work :)

  15. 15

    Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. — October 19, 2009 @ 9:54 pm

    Stacey’s comment is so funny, “cover girl” :)

  16. 16

    Claudia Lima — October 19, 2009 @ 10:59 pm

    I have the book and I bake almost everyday. I have tried many recipes already and I love them, especially the European Peasant Bread and Challah
    Good luck!.

  17. 17

    Jeff Hertzberg — October 20, 2009 @ 4:58 am

    Wow, thanks for the great coverage! Beautiful loaf. Come visit us at http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com, and check out our new book at http://tinyurl.com/pe8yr9

    Jeff Hertzberg (co-author)

    • Lori Lange replied: — October 20th, 2009 @ 7:32 am

      Thanks Jeff & Zoe- I absolutely cannot wait to get your second book in the mail. Should be any day now, right??

  18. 18

    Sophie — October 20, 2009 @ 5:29 am

    What a fabulous loooking tasty bread!

    MMMMMMMM,…

  19. 19

    Karen U — October 20, 2009 @ 6:58 am

    I, too, have this book and love it. One of the issues I had making the bread was that it was too wet sometimes. After reading the recipe AGAIN, I determined it was the manner in which I was measuring the flour. I was using a flour scoop and pouring the flour into the measuring cup instead of scooping up the flour with the actual measuring cup and then leveling. The latter method contains much more flour than the former.

    Also, for ease of transferring the dough, I now let mine raise on parchment paper and transfer the dough and paper onto my baking stone or dutch oven. No more stuck dough.

    • Lori Lange replied: — October 20th, 2009 @ 7:34 am

      Karen- My dough was pretty wet too, but when I followed the directions and coated it with flour in the bucket when scooping out, then used a bit more when shaping, it turned out to be okay. I think you’re right though that the scooping & sweeping of the flour is important!

  20. 20

    Louise — October 20, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

    I’m one of those dreamers. There I said it!!!

    I first read about this book a while back @ Culinary Types. I think it was in May. Between you and T.W., I may just be convinced that even I, a no bread baker from way back when, can at least give it a go!!! Thanks for the reminder, Lori.

    P.S. Cover Girl is one of my very best favorite movies!!!

  21. 21

    Vitania — October 20, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

    Just got here through the Italian dish – I think I am going to love it here.. This bread looks amazing.. I’ll have to try it with whole wheat flour..As soon as you mentioned a dunk in chicken soup, i knew I would have to try..

    Casarecce

  22. 22

    Katie @ goodLife {eats} — October 20, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

    What a fun concept for a new blog. I love baking homemade bread. It makes the house smell amazing!

  23. 23

    Jenn@slim-shoppin — October 20, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

    I’ve made that bread before and I was so excited by how good it turned out!

    Yours looks great!

  24. 24

    Katie the Scrapbook Lady — October 20, 2009 @ 10:21 pm

    Love this new blog! I was just looking at this bread cookbook today and trying to decide if I should get it. Seeing this post has really helped me, now I want to buy it!

  25. 25

    Katrina — October 24, 2009 @ 12:18 pm

    Have the book. Need to bake more from it. The cover bread is the only thing I’ve made and I loved it! Great review, Lori.

  26. 26

    Hélène — October 24, 2009 @ 8:11 pm

    I love the concept of Culinary Covers. Great boule you made. Looks delicious.

  27. 27

    Zoe — November 12, 2009 @ 8:26 pm

    I tried this recipe today, and it was amazing! Crunchy on the outside, perfectly delicious on the inside. This was my very first time making bread, and I’m so glad I found this recipe to try. Thank you!

  28. 28

    Mimi — November 29, 2009 @ 11:56 pm

    Lori great new blog. I make yeast bread weekly, and I made this bread today. It is a great recipe, easy to use and the bread had fabulous crust, flavor and texture. I wait to see how tomorrows loaf turns out.
    Mimi

  29. 29

    Chantal — December 24, 2009 @ 10:44 am

    Thank you so much for the detailed recipe. I made this last night and it turned out FANTASTIC!! I didnt even have a baking stone… I just used a cookie sheet but followed all the directions exactly (including the steam steep)… and it produced a bread exactly as promised! I posted it to my website (flirtingwithflour.blogspot.com) and provided a link back to your page. Thanks again!

  30. 30

    William Miller — July 6, 2012 @ 11:46 am

    I have purchased your book and I have tried to bake both your basic boule and the european peasant bread. The crust comes out perfect but the crumb keeps coming out a little bit too “doughy”. Any suggestions?

    Thanks,
    Bill Miller

  31. 31

    Jelli — June 10, 2013 @ 6:08 pm

    I made this bread today and though it tastes amazing and the crust is perfect, it certainly didn’t shape well due to how wet the dough was. Next time, I think I’d add a bit more flour so that I didn’t just have a glob sitting on my pan. Thanks for the recipe!

  32. 32

    Jelli — June 27, 2013 @ 9:37 pm

    Update…I’ve made this twice since the last comment and both times it’s turned out great! Not sure what went wonky the first time. We love it!

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