Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Crusty Artisanal Bread

It's day 2 of Bread Week.


I love to make bread! 
 I also love to eat home made bread.

For years I tried and tried and tried to bake a bread that had
a thick chewy crust with big holes on the inside and a moist
interior - a European style artisan bread.
 You know, you have heard all of the "tricks" too -
place a pan of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven,
or spritz the oven with water, or place ice cubes on the
floor of the oven.  Well, if you are like me, none of those
methods produced the bread I was looking for.

Then one day, my friend Kathy (who loves to cook and is a
fabulous cook) gave me the recipe for
this bread.  Her brother in law had found it in a newspaper article
as Sullivan St. Bakery Bread.  You can see the recipe online
by clicking here. It was developed by the owner
of Sullivan St. Baker, Jim Lahey.

This was it, after years of so - so bread.  This had all of
the right textures - crisp chewy thick crust,
moist interior with large holes.  We have twisted
a few things but it is fabulous.  Hope you try it, you will love it!

This is the step that you cannot skip, so you do have to plan ahead.
You have to mix the bread up and let it sit covered with
plastic wrap on the counter overnight. He says to mix in one
bowl and transfer to another greased bowl. I have done it both by
transferring it to a greased bowl and by leaving it in the same
bowl.  It sticks a little less when you put it in a new greased bowl.

It will seem kind of shaggy when you mix it that night, but in
the morning it will look like this - all wet and bubbly.

You will want to place about 1/4 C. flour on the counter and
generously flour your hands.  Then
gently scoop the bread dough onto the flour.  Top with another
generous amount of flour and gently fold it back onto itself
a couple of times, beginning to form a ball.

Now it will appear like this.  You want to be gentle to preserve
those wonderful air bubbles - don't work it much.

Place the ball, seam side down onto a piece of parchment
paper that is dusted with corn meal. (This is a little trick
Kathy taught me from another recipe - it makes the transfer
of the dough a lot easier and continues to preserve our precious
air bubbles.

Generously dust the top of the dough and a cotton tea towel with
flour and cover the dough.  Let rise for 2  to 2 1/2 hours or until
double.  Don't use a terry cloth towel as it will stick to the dough.  This
is a slow rising dough!  (Don't rush this part.)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and then place an enamel coated
pan with a lid in the oven to heat for 30 minutes.  After 30
minutes remove the pan from the oven.  Take the lid off and lift
the parchment paper and place it into the hot pan
 Replace the lid (you want to capture all the moisture)
and put it back in the hot oven.  Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and bake an additional 5-10 minutes if desired.
(I usually do just 5.)

I used a Le Creuset pan (that I got for a bargain a few years
ago at Costco), but you can find enamel coated pans at
Home Goods and even Wal Mart.  You will need about a 6-8 quart

The plastic handles on Le Creuset will not tolerate the high
heat for this bread.

Guess what I found at Sur La Table the other day.  They 
got wise and now are selling stainless steel knobs for $11.95,
so I got a new one and replaced the plastic one.

They should know better!  My Cuisinart enamel pan
 came with a metal handle.

Lift the loaf out by using the paper.  Peel the paper off and
let it cool on a cooling rack.

You can cook yours longer to get a darker crust, but I love it
this way.

Slice when cool (if you can wait that long - I have a hard time
with that), or break the bread into pieces (my kids love that).

Crusty Artisanal Bread Recipe

Mix with a wooden spoon in a large ceramic bowl:
3 C. all purpose flour
1 5/8 C. warm water (slightly more than the original recipe)
1/4 tsp. rapid rise yeast (yes that is only 1/4 tsp.
his recipe doesn't call for rapid rise, but I have
tried both and like the texture of rapid rise best)
1 1/4 tsp. salt

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl using a wooden
spoon or spatula.  It will seem quite shaggy.  Transfer to
a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Leave out
on the counter overnight. 

Place 1/4 C. flour on counter and gently turn out dough
onto counter.  Top with another generous sprinkling of
flour.  Turn it in on itself several times, forming a ball.
Use generous amounts of flour on your hands as it is
very sticky. 

Place on a piece of parchment paper dusted with cornmeal.
Dust with flour and dust a cotton tea towel with flour, then
cover the dough with the towel.  Let rise for 2 to 21/2 hours
or until doubled in size.  Don't rush this.  It is a slow rising
dough with so little yeast. 

The last 45 minutes or so, preheat your oven to 450.  When
the oven is heated, place a 6-8 quart enamel coated cast iron
pan with lid into the oven for 30 minutes.  Don't rush this
either.  The pan with the lid
creates an environment for the bread like
a mini steam oven that is used in
Europe to create these artisanal breads and you don't have
to spend $20,000 to have your own!  All of the moisture that
is escaping from the bread as it bakes is captured inside the
enamel pan with its lid on.  I have tried an uncoated dutch
oven and didn't think it worked as well.  He says you can
also use a Pyrex or ceramic baking dish as long as it is
big enough (I haven't tried those.)

Remove the lid and bake an additional 5-10 minutes if
desired.  This gives a tougher, darker crust. 
 I usually don't leave
mine in very long, maybe 5 minutes.

Remove from pan by lifting the paper.  Peel off paper
and let cool on a rack.

The crunchy crust is best that day.  You will notice that
commercially baked artisanal bread is packaged in bags
that have little holes punched in them to keep the crust
crunchy.  If you place it in a regular plastic bag the
crust will not retain its classic crispness.  Of course, if
you keep this kind of bread in the commercial bags
with perforations, it
dries out, so eat it that day!

Serve however you desire.  I pictured the bread with assorted
If you haven't tried the Manchego cheese (the back cheese with the
black coating) from Costco, you have to try it.  It goes great
with the fresh bread.  It is so nutty and buttery.

My sister Jean taught me how easy it is to clean up after
making bread if you use a dough scraper for the flour and
the dough stuck on your counter.  Great idea!

Artisanal European style breadmaking
is within your reach.  Give it a try and let
me know how it worked for you.

Hope you enjoy Bread Week.

I have already had people report back and say they have
made some bread!  Keep it up.

Posting with


Chocolat - French for Chocolate. I adored chocolate from a young age when I had to sneak in the cupboard to find where my mother had hidden the Nestle's Chocolate Chips. Having read about the famous chocolat shoppes in Paris, when I finally got there I was determined to try a chocolate from every Paris shoppe. I invite you to share my adventures in creating, in travel, and in life.


  1. I'm enjoying Bread week....thanks.

  2. That's the one I have been baking like crazy:)I made his baguettes ..the last 3 times.. w/ tomatoes..olives..
    I did last year and I have started w/ a small vengeance again..for J..

    I love your letters too:)

    Great idea for posts!

  3. Oh there is nothing like freshly baked bread!!

    Come and join my great giveaway from The Zhush!

    Art by Karena

  4. I am loving bread week Jacqueline! Thank you for taking the time and effort to post. :) Today I was in Sam's and they have enameled cast iron dutch ovens, big ones, in PURPLE!!


  5. Oh, your bread look heavenly and I just know I can smell it! I love making bread too, my mom taught me when I was 12 and I used to make 8 loaves a week. Nothing like making bread, I could live on just that! ;D

  6. I love this! I've always loved to make bread and this recipe sounds divine. Thanks so much for sharing ~ especially all your hints, etc.

    I look forward to the rest of the week too!

  7. I can't wait to try this recipe! Thanks for all of the tips, but I do have a question - what about the temperature of the kitchen countertop for the rising? I always think it is too cold?? Many Thanks!

  8. Stacy, I have granite counters and have had no problem, but you could always lay down a towel if you think the counters are too cold.

  9. I just heard about Lahey's technique a few weeks ago...have been meaning to try it. I just need to get myself a fancy pants pan! :)

  10. I can't wait to try this out. I need an enamel coated pan though. What a good reason to go shopping! I am so loving this bread week! I am going to have to start a whole file just for your recipes!

  11. You make it look so easy - I am just so afraid of bread recipes. I am determined to try this one again now with the corn meal tip. You are an amazing homemaker and cook.

  12. Oh your bread looks so professional! I'm noting this recipe. What a lovely spread as well to go with bread. Nothing better than ham or cheese and a nice fresh bread loaf..

  13. Oh, I almost skipped over your post because I've seriously gained weight from trying (and devouring) so many of your delicious recipes. The allure of fresh, crusty bread, however, was too much and I have a batch resting on the counter right now.

  14. I'm loving your bread this week! This loaf is gorgeous, and I love the method. I don't have a big LeCreuset but I do have a big cast iron dutch oven that I'm hoping will work for this. :)

  15. I did respond to your email....said I did not pick the pan up so don't know about the weight of it. Don't know if you are interested in a Walmart pan or not, but I Googled Purple Dutch Oven and Walmart came up with one, as well as the high-end one you mentioned.

  16. They had Le Creuset pan at Costco once - awww I wish they still did!
    The artisan bread looks delicious, very pretty and artisanal.

  17. I tried this once - I forget where I got my recipe from :( (next time I'll write down the recipe with the associated weblink! for bad memory cases like this one!) . Anyway, what I wanted to say is that I baked mine in a ceramic baking dish (I read you haven't tried one like this, so maybe that's simply what happens with one of those). And while the bread was amazingly tasty and crusty, the crust, however, was too.. crusty? Right away after cooling, it began to get rock hard, thus almost impossible to eat :( I wonder what I did wrong...

    Unfortunately I no longer have the lid of my ceramic baking dish, so it'll be pretty hard to reproduce in exactly the same fashion.

    (I'll come back to read the comments, I subscribed to that too ;) )

  18. Fantastic post. I can almost smell the fresh bread baking.

  19. OMG....this artisian bread looks delish. Will definately have to try. I can just taste it now with real butter oozing.

  20. LOVE your indepth tutorial! This bread looks so yummy but looks like a lot of work.

  21. This is perfect for a carbaholic like myself!!

  22. oh...i have a thing for bread! loving this weeks theme!

  23. This looks so good. I haven't made it before, but I will definitely try -- the only problem is I need a few cast iron dutch ovens -- my family will love this sooo much that one round will definitely not be enough. Joni

  24. This is one of our favorite bread recipes. I cheat and sometimes just mix up the dough in the morning and bake it by dinner and it is still fantastic.

  25. Kpriss, I agree, I tried a regular cast iron dutch oven and I thought it was too crusty. I haven't tried the ceramic, but maybe a little less time baking would give a little thinner crust. I didn't like the full extra 10 minutes they suggested once you take the cover off - I thought it gave too heavy of a crust too. This one is perfect - crisp and crackly and chewy but not impossible to eat.

  26. Oh, this looks delicious! I'm definitely enjoying Bread Week. ~ Sarah

  27. hmmm.. then this must be it - I took off the lid and indeed kept it for an additional 10 minutes. Next time I will be less generous! What if (sans the necessary lid which ... is no more) I would do the same thing with baking Al foil? I know it's not the same, but anyone tried it? I'm trying to save a little something for the creuset thingies (actually I've being doing some reading and discovered that Staub are actually better than Le Creuset) but I guess it'll have to wait, it's on the bottom of the list (on top are the kids bedrooms, the master bedroom and well, the kitchen).

    Yeah so that's why I'm stubbornly trying to find out a good method for the ceramic...

  28. Thanks for the great recipe, and all the details and tips! I love that you start it one day and leave it to rise overnight for the next day. This is a must make!

  29. I was going to tell you that you can replace the plastic handles with metal ones that are made by LC, but I see you found one :). I think the look nicer than the other ones anyway.

    I'm impressed with all the bread you've been baking. Better you than me though... we have such a soft spot for really good fresh bread. I truly can't be trusted around good bread!


  30. Isn't it great to make bread like this at home.

  31. Jacqueline, I love that you give wonderful hints with your recipes. You must be baking all of the time! My husband would love to live at your house. Thanks so much for linking this to Favorite Things. laurie

  32. I made this bread and it is wonderful! It was really good dipped in olive oil with McCormick's italian herb grinder, although butter was just as good! I borrowed my sisters LeCreuset pot, and now I want one.
    My sisters and I started a blog together, I made your fried chicken salad for my first post. Since everything you make is so awesome I am afraid it will not be my last time making your recipes, so Thank you! Donna

  33. From one Jacqueline to another:
    Thanks! I've been looking for a recipe like this! Just have to go find me an enamel pan first...


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