When you see pizza on a menu, do you think “oh great, a worse version of what I make at home for 10 times the price”?
I don’t feel as strongly about artisan bread. The best bread is slightly better than what I make, but it is still 10-20 times the price.
But making your own bread is really difficult, with all that…kneading. Right?
It doesn’t have to be.
- Add flour, salt, yeast and water to a large bowl and mix with a spoon until all ingredients are combined (less than 30 seconds).
- Cover the bowl loosely (not airtight) leave it on the counter for between 2-24 hours.
- Put the bowl in a fridge and leave it for up to two weeks.
- Then, anytime that I feel like making bread or pizza over the following two weeks, I pull out a grapefruit-sized portion and either roll it into a pizza shape or make a ball and let it warm up on the counter for around 90 minutes then pop it into a hot oven.
I don’t claim to have invented this life-changing approach to bread. There are countless no-knead bread recipes out there.
Budget Bytes also has a good recipe. You might get less consistent results though as it does not have weight measurements, only volume.
Get a scale and measure your flour by weight. Volume measurements are not very accurate. I have had the same mechanical kitchen scale (like this) for over a decade.
Placing the dough onto parchment paper will make it easier to transfer from the counter to the oven (I’ve recently switched to a reusable alternative, silicone baking sheets).
Scoring your ball of dough and baking it in a pre-heated cast iron Dutch oven will give you a nice pretentious loaf. Leave the cover on for the first 30 minutes of baking. You want it as hot as your oven/cookware/parchment paper can handle — be careful!
If you don’t care about ultra-crispy crust on your bread, letting the dough warm up and rise directly in a loaf pan or on a baking sheet will make the transfer to the oven easier. Also, because you will be able to move it gently from the counter to the oven after letting it rise a bit, this will help to produce nice big air pockets.
The flavour of the dough will become more complex as it slowly ferments in the fridge for up to two weeks. Try it at different stages to see what you prefer.
When you have used up all the dough you can start a new batch in the same bowl, without washing it. The small amount of leftovers will act as a sort of sourdough starter cheat and give it a bit of a flavour boost.
Different flours may require more or less water. Canadian flours tend to have more protein than American flours, so if you are using an American recipe, you may need to add a bit more water. Artisan Bread in Five has a conversion table for different brands of flour. There are definitely diminishing returns with these types of adjustments though. You can ignore flour type and still get great results.
The bottom line
This method of bread making allows you to control the ingredients, produces consistently great results, involves almost no work, and can cost as little as 50 cents a loaf. Oh yeah, and your home will smell great. Give it a try!