Fresh, hot bread coming out of the oven is a great moment in the kitchen! The smell alone is worth the effort of baking a batch. A few months ago I discovered the cookbook, The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois and let me tell you, this changed our “bread” world. I have been baking bread for a very long time, and while I didn’t mind the work, it was never one of my favorite jobs. I did it to save money, all the while, craving a nice crusty artisan loaf. Well, now I can have my cake (bread!) and eat it too!
This easy artisan bread costs pennies to make and is absolutely the best tasting bread I have ever eaten. I usually stick to the plain variety, but have also made a rye, roasted garlic-rosemary, and olive using the same method. And, I have used the plain dough for pizza and calzones, to make cinnamon buns, cheese Danish, and ham and cheese rolls (think cinnamon buns but with ham and cheese instead of cinnamon and sugar).
The best part of making this bread is that it also requires NO KNDEADING!!!!! I make at least one batch a week. You mix up the dough in a large container and throw it in the fridge where it keeps up to 1 week. You can pull off sections to make a fresh loaf in the middle of the week or bake up several loaves at once to keep in the freezer. It’s a HUGE time-saver, and is one opportunity that allows me to control the ingredients that goes into the food we eat. After much experimenting, I modified the basic recipe that works best for us.
Frugal tip: if you find you enjoy bread making on a regular basis, find a bulk source for yeast. The small packages in the grocery store are very expensive compared to buying in bulk. I have purchased in the past from Sam’s Club and my latest purchase was from Amazon. I find that even if you can’t use it up before the expiration date, it is still half the price of the packets. If you have to buy at the grocery store, find it in the jar – still cheaper than those pre-measured packets.
Easy Artisan Bread Recipe (makes A LOT!)
- 6 cups warm water
- 1 Tablespoon yeast
- 13 cups of all purpose unbleached flour
- 1 Tablespoon sea salt
You need a rather large container with a loose fitting lid for this dough and it needs to fit in your fridge. I used a big stockpot for a while, then found a square plastic bucket with a lid that takes up less space in the fridge. So add all the ingredients above and mix well. You do not have to knead this dough, just make sure it is all mixed. Put the bucket of dough in the fridge and leave it at least overnight.
When you decide to bake off the dough (part or all), pull it out of the fridge and generously sprinkle with flour. Grab a handful and shape as you would regular bread dough, sort of pulling it smooth on top and tucking edges under the bottom to form a nice round or oval loaf. Place this on a greased cookie sheet (do not skip this step – trust me it will stick, I’ve forgotten to grease and well, it was a mess).
Frugal tip: Save the paper that butter sticks are wrapped in. There is usually some butter left on the paper and you can use this to grease pans. I’ve done this for years and have not had to buy cooking spray. Every time I unwrap a butter stick, I just fold the wrapper and put it in a container I keep in the fridge for that purpose.
Let the dough set for 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Before turning the oven on, fill a pan with warm water and place on the bottom rack of the oven. This will get nice and steamy as the oven heats up. After 30 minutes is up and the oven is hot, put the bread in and do not open the door again until it is done. Set the timer for 30 minutes for a small loaf (around 1lb size) or 40 minutes for a larger loaf. When the timer goes off, take out the bread and let it set a bit before trying to slice!!! One word of caution – 450 degrees is a HOT oven! Be careful when you first open that door to take the bread out – It can be steamy.
This recipe makes a ton of bread, perfect for a large family. I never measure the loaves, just kind of eyeball it, but I have made at least 6 large loaves from this recipe. I tend to use some of the dough on Friday nights for Calzones or Pizza, so rarely bake all of it into loaves of bread. What I do bake into bread, gets sliced and put in the freezer to use during the busy week. This toasts up great straight from the freezer! Slathered with butter – YUM!