Fresh Baked Artisan Bread
Nothing says love more than a loaf of freshly baked artisan bread. I'm not sure if it’s because it takes almost a full day to bake or the fact that my very busy career has me occupied seven days a week. So, spending a rainy Sunday at home surrounded by family is the perfect time to show them just how much I love them.
When my kiddos were still little, I was fortunate enough to stay at home with them while my husband was deployed or away at work for long periods of time. I spent so many hours preparing meals, but some of my favorite moments were when I was alone in the kitchen testing new recipes. My husband was raised in an Italian household where each and every family gathering was centered around comfort foods galore. When he was able to be home with us, almost all the cooking was done by him, and the baking was left to me...
I enjoy how precise baking is, knowing that each ingredient has been measured for perfect results out of the oven almost every time. I remember the day we bought our first bread machine, we figured the process would be so much quicker and easier than making it by hand, but what we quickly found out was that speeding up the process was taking away all of the laughs, flour fights, and time spent waiting for the dough to rise.
Needless to say, our bread machine didn’t make too much bread after that. Over the last 20 years, I've easily made hundreds of loaves of homemade bread, and every time, our home is filled with the laughs, and the flour fights, and all the anxious waiting for the dough to rise. Now that my children are all grown up, I still feel each memory as every ingredient is added to the bowl. And when they are both home to visit, it's usually the first thing I bake for them with so much love. So, from my family to yours, I hope you enjoy this recipe. Be sure to laugh a lot, throw some flour while you wait.
- 2 cups lukewarm water (90˚-110˚F)
- 1 envelope (or 2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
Stir the yeast into the water and allow the yeast to bloom until foamy.
In your large bowl, mix together the flour and salt.
Once well mixed, use your hands to form a well in the middle and pour in the water/yeast mixture.
Mix the water/yeast mixture into the flour. The water and flour should come together and form dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
If the dough is too sticky, add more flour (about 1 tablespoon at a time). If the dough is too dry, add more water (about 1 tablespoon at a time).
Once the dough comes together, cover and let rise for about 1 1/2 hours (until doubled in size).
Uncover and poke the dough. If it has risen properly, it will indent and then bounce back.
Using your hand, start from the sides of the bowl and fold the dough up and towards the center of the bowl. Repeat until all the dough has been pulled from the sides and folded towards the center.
Once finished, cover and let the dough rise again for another 1 1/2 hours (should about double in size again).
Meanwhile, place your Dutch oven (or heavy cooking pot with oven-safe lid) inside the oven. Preheat the oven to 450˚F with the pot inside while the dough rises for the second time.
Uncover and drizzle the olive oil over the dough (this is were you use your teaspoon of oil!!)
Using your hands, begin to shape it into a loaf. Fold the dough under itself several times to form a ball.
Place the dough seam-side down, with olive oil completely (and THINLY) covering the entire ball.
Carefully remove the dutch oven (or pot) from the oven and place it on a heat-safe surface. (Be careful! It’ll be VERY HOT).
Lift the oiled dough out of the bowl and gently place into the dutch oven (or pot).
Cover with the lid and return the dutch oven (or pot) to the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes.
Remove bread from dutch oven (or pot), cover with a clean, dry towel, then let cool for 10 minutes before devouring.