Quick Bread Recipe

This very simple bread making approach was published in the New York Times in November 2007, and I began making it about a month later. It was an instant hit as judged by the responses of others. Of course I like it a lot too. Click here to get access the recipe details at the Times. Or it can be found in a book titled Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. I've not yet obtained or read this book, but if this recipe is an indication, it won't be long before there are more bread recommendations coming from it.

This recipe results in a dense, yeasty loaf that can have a strong crust, or a bit less if you reduce overall cooking time. I have primarily portioned it into 3 loaves, but have made a few smaller loaves with equal success.

Why is this recipe so good?

  • Ease - after 5 minutes of preparation, there is only one additional step, which takes very little skill to master.
  • No kneading - which means not only less work, but no variability based on kneading time, technique, etc.
  • Taste, look and feel - as good as any of the highest quality artisan bread.
What you need:

  • Ingredients: Bread flour (highly recommended, though all-purpose will suffice), Kosher salt, yeast, warm water. Cornmeal for dusting.  
  • Equipment: a large bowl, a cutting board or pizza peel, a baking stone (a must) and a rimmed baking sheet / pan.
The approach:
  1. Mixing: combine 3 cups warm water, 1.5 tablespoons yeast and1.5 tablespoons salt to dissolve. Stir in 6.5 cups of flour.  use a soft spatula, and fold the wet and dry ingredients gently. The dough will be pretty loose and pretty wet.
  2. Rising: Set aside for 2 to 5 hours. Can be refrigerated overnight. If you leave uncovered overnight in a fridge, erratic crusty formations will harden on the top of the dough, which make a great "artisan" look and feel.  
  3. Pre-heat: Heat your oven at 450 degrees, with baking stone(s) placed on a middle rack, and a rimmed baking pan on oven floor or lowest rack.  Preheat for at least 45 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle a small handful of cornmeal over a baking peel or cutting board.   
  5. Forming: While oven is heating, using well-floured hands, pull dough away from the sides of the bowl, and turn upside down onto a marble/stone or well floured surface. Cut ough into thirds. Dust "wet" edges of dough with flour, turn upside down, and form a loaf shape, keeping the hardened crusty top in a prominent and attractive position. Repeat to form three loaves. Place loaves onto a making peel or cutting board. After setting the loaf down, twist it in a circular motion to ensure it doesn't stick.
  6. Let loaves rise an additional 20-40 minutes.
  7. Slide loaves onto stones in hot oven. Pour 1 cup of cool water into the sheet pan and quickly shut the oven door. Cook approximately 20 minutes, checking color to determine final cooking time.
Final comments: There are only two really tricky parts of this recipe. Forming the loaves is first, as the dough is pretty sticky and hard to work with. The process of sliding the dough into the oven takes a little finesse, also because of the stickiness of the dough. Be sure to use plenty of cornmeal and spin it a little on the peel. Notice the amount of cornmeal in the picture below. But just a little practice and it will pay off for you.

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