Simple Crusty Bread (Recipe can easily be cut in half)


The rationale behind the recipe was to find a way to make a large batch of dough, but then to bake it on an as-desired basis. The refrigerated dough keeps for up to two weeks, and is amazingly good considering the simplicity of the technique.

In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100°). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours). When ready to bake, cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife and sprinkle a little flour on dough. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40-60 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and heat oven to 450° and hold stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely. Makes 4 loaves.

Variations: If not using a stone, stretch rounded dough into oval and place in a greased, nonstick loaf pan. Let rest 40 minutes or an extra hour if refrigerated. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place pan on middle rack and bake until well browned. We also have substituted up to two cups of white whole-wheat flour for the all-purpose flour.

Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, Thomas Dunne Books, 2007.