Artisan Breads look so beautiful and it always seems like a lot of work has gone into baking them. Also, it has that unique homemade feel to it. The shape, the colors everything says 'its beautiful'.
Sourdough Bread is one such bread and an all time favorite. Baking a sourdough bread was a dream come true for me. I mean baking the final bread was easy - but, getting the starter done and waiting for it to ferment over a couple of days was the tough part. Moreover, you need to keep baking sourdough breads regularly to keep the starter alive or atleast keep feeding the starter to keep it alive. In my case, I used to just feed the starter to keep it alive (as I did not bake this bread frequently) - and well, as you can guess......... I had more of the starter and I could actually open a bakery for sourdough bread.I had to finally discard the starter with a very heavy heart.
I then came across this book Artisan Bread in five minutes a day - and the basic 'Boule Bread' recipe. It looked like the sourdough bread and it was very very easy to make. Takes just about 4 hours to get the bread ready on your table. - and you have an Artisan Bread that you made at home by yourself to boast about.This has been a regular bread at home. Holds stuff well for sandwiches & paninis, goes great with soups and is divine when it is toasted lightly with a little bit of butter.
6 and 1/2 cups - All Purpose flour
1 and 1/2 tablespoon - Active Dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon - Salt
3 cups - Lukewarm Water (about 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
Cornmeal for dusting - I used flour as I had no cornmeal at home
In a large mixing bowl, add flour, yeast and salt. Pour the lukewarm water and with a wooden spatula mix this mixture till a lump-free sticky dough forms - about 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with a cling wrap or a kitchen towel and let it rest for minimum 2 hours.
Spread the cornmeal or flour on kitchen counter (you can use a wide mouth plate too) and put the risen dough on this. Cover the dough also with flour and form into a ball by rolling gently on the counter. Place this ball on a baking sheet (I used a pizza pan) and let it rest for 30-40 minutes for a second rise. With a sharp knife, make 3 lines to help the steam out while baking. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and place the baking tray/sheet into the oven. On the oven floor (below the baking tray) place bowl with water (this helps to keep the bread moist). Bake for 30-35 minutes or till you hear a hollow sound when you tap the top of the bread. once done remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
I made two round breads with the entire dough mixture.
If you are not going to use the entire dough mix - then, you can freeze this dough up to 2 months. After the first rise of 2 hours - wrap the unused dough tightly in cling foil and freeze.