I have been obsessed with making artisan bread for the past few years, but this recipe is much easier and it turns out so incredible you won’t believe your eyes or your tastebuds! You can use this one base recipe to make several different varieties by what mix-ins / topping you add. The secret is baking the bread in a hot pot! This give you the authentic crackly, crisp crust with light, tender inside texture (called the crumb).
You will need a dutch oven, covered baking dish or large pot with a lid that has no plastic and can handle high oven heat. Other than this, the equip and ingredients are very basic… unless you want to get fancy and mix in some gourmet goodies… which of course it what makes artisan bread so fun!
You will only spend about 15-20 minutes total working on the bread, so it is super easy. However you need to mix up the dough 12-18 hours ahead of time. You don’t need a mixer. Just stir it all with a big spoon. You don’t let the yeast sponge and you won’t knead it! You don’t even have to let it raise two times and all that jazz.
Here we go:
STEP 1: MIX THE DRY INGREDIENTS
Stir the dry ingredients in a plastic or glass bowl:
3 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 tsp. dry yeast
1 – 3/4 tsp. salt
STEP 2: ADD MIX-INS
Stir in any mix-ins, such as cheese, flavorings, cinnamon chips, etc. Here are my favorite 4 varieties:
1. Asiago Cheesy Herb; 2. Cinnamon Chip-Almond; 3. Cranberry-Orange-White Chocolate; 4. Spinach Feta
See images and details below.
STEP 3: ADD WATER
Add 1 – 1/2 cups tepid water (not warm – not cold) and stir well. The dough will be sticky, but it will turn out no matter what it looks like, so don’t fret
STEP 4: RAISE FOR 12-18 HOURS
Make sure your bowl has enough extra room for the dough to double. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Don’t put the lid on tightly. Just set it on top of the bowl and leave it on the counter for 12 – 18 hours. It will get raise, fall and get spongy and slightly fermented. This is what makes it good!
STEP 5: PREHEAT THE POT
Preheat the oven to 450. Spray the inside of your pot/pan lightly and sprinkle the bottom with cornmeal. Then place your covered pot, dish or pan with its lid in the oven and preheat it for 20 minutes.
STEP 6: SHAPE THE LOAF
Use flour on your hands and the counter to gather the dough into a ball. Place the ball in the center of your hot pan and sprinkle with a little flour and/or desired toppings. Then put the lid on tightly
STEP 7: BAKE THE LOAF
Place the covered pan into the oven and bake it covered for 20-25 minutes (depending on the type of pot you use). Remove the lid and feast your eyes on the most beautiful crusty top that is hopefully all crackly and jagged! Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the top is browned. Remove the loaf and cool on a wire rack. If you can stand to wait… you should let it cool before you cut the loaf. I can never wait that long to try the crispy crust and soft, tender light crumb (inside texture)
NOW FOR THE VARIATIONS:
It’s fun to get creative and add ingredients for special varieties. Add these mix-ins with the dry ingredients (except add the extracts/juice with the water). You may also want to add a few toppings on the top of loaves just before baking.
You can try making focaccia (flat loaf) by spreading the dough in a cake pan or 18×9 baking dish, then use a cookie sheet for a lid.
Here are some of my favorite varieties:
1. AISAGO CHEESY HERB: 1/2 cup grated cheddar’ 1/2 cup chunked asiago; 2 tsp. basil, 2 tsp. rosemary and 1/2 tsp. garlic powder.
2. CINNAMON CHIP ALMOND: 3/4 cup cinnamon chips; 3/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds (or substitute white chocolate chips if you are not an almond lover) Also add 1/2 tsp. almond extract with the liquids
3. CRANBERRY – ORANGE – WHITE CHOCOLATE: 3/4 cup craisins; 3/4 cup white chocolate; orange zest from 1 orange; Optional: substitute 1/2 cup orange juice for water.
4. SPINACH FETA: 1 cup chopped fresh spinach; 3/4 cup crumbled or chunked feta