Large plastic container with lid and vents (I use a Tupperware lettuce container)
Cast iron griddle or frying pan
Very large cookie spatula (mine is about 8" x 8") or a small pizza peel
Bottom part of a broiler pan.
Advisable: a good-quality serrated bread knife
3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 deg-F)
1-1/2 Tablespoons granulated dry yeast
1-1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
6-1/2 cups UNBLEACHED flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
Cornmeal to sprinkle on the peel
- Add yeast and salt to water in a 5-quart (or larger) bowl.
- Mix in the flour (with wooden spoon or with dough hook on a mixer). Kneading is not necessary. You are finished mixing when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches. Dough will be wet and sticky.
- Wet hands and transfer to plastic container. Cover with lid, leaving vent holes open. - Set on counter for 2 hours. Longer times, up to 5 hours, will not harm the dough.
You can refrigerate overnight or at least 3 hours .. the dough will be easier to handle, but I never do this.
- Sprinkle cornflour on the peel/spatula. Set the griddle/cast-iron frying pan in the oven on a middle shelf. Put the broiler pan (just the bottom pan) on shelf underneath. Do NOT yet turn on the oven.
- Dust your hands with flour or wet with water. Pull off however much dough you want. Keep the rest in the refrigerator and use before 2 weeks. The dough will end up being half-again to twice as much as what you pull off.
- Shape the dough into a circle, oval, or roundish-longish loaf.
- Put the dough on the cornmeal-dusted peel. Dust lightly with floured hands. Dust a sharp knife with flour and cut slits in the top (just for aesthetics) ... at an angle along the length, or a tic-tac-toe type of cross-hatch.
- Allow the dough to rest on the counter for 20 minutes.
- When the timer has gone off, turn on the oven to 450-F. Reset your timer for another 20 minutes.
- After the oven has heated for 20 minutes (it will NOT yet reach full temperature), use a second floured spatula to slide/push the dough off the peel/spatula onto the heated griddle/pan in the oven. Immediately pour a cup or so of tap water into the broiler pan below and quickly close the oven door.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes. Time will depend on size. It should sound dense but hollow when you rap the top of the loaf with the back of your knuckle.
- Cool on a wire rack.
This bread has a delightful crust and a slightly-moist dense interior. The crust is not like the French Bread you buy in stores .. it is thicker and has both crustiness AND a real "chew" to it.
You will not want it for sandwiches nor for toast, but it is always gone within a day, just slicing and buttering the slices.
I've made this bread for some years now, and often make a small loaf for friends/family members.
After cutting off a slice, I rest the loaf, cut-side-down on a cutting board.
I bag it at the end of the day. The crust will become a bit tougher and not as crunchy, but the bread will remain fresh. If you do not bag it, the interior "crumb" starts to go stale and harden by the next day.
"Artisan Bread in Five MInutes a Day" by Hertzberg & Francois. I have tried some of the other artisan bread recipes but don't care for them. This is the master recipe that I have given you, for a free-form loaf.