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It’s no secret carbs are my love language. This Perfect Crusty Artisan White Bread is the only recipe you’ll ever need – it doesn’t take a starter, comes together in only one day (many of these recipes require you let it rise a day or two), and it only requires 4 ingredients.
This recipe comes from Ken Forkish in his amazing cookbook Flour Water Salt Yeast. My husband got it a couple years ago and quickly started perfecting bread thanks to Ken’s detailed instructions. However, I have to admit I was a little scared to try it out. It seemed too precise for me. The cookbook only has a few recipes, yet each recipe has pages of explanation. It was a little daunting.
What I realized after reading it and making this recipe for Perfect Crusty Artisan White Bread, however, was the instructions are detailed to help ensure that you don’t fail. That your bread comes out perfect every time. For a beginner it couldn’t be easier. This was the first loaf I’ve ever made this way.
The details in Flour Water Salt Yeast’s recipes will help you make perfect bread. I’ve copied the recipe here – it looks long but like I said, it is easier than you think. It just takes a day because of the couple rises it needs.
Plan to start it in the morning and bake it early evening for dinner.
Perfect Crusty Artisan White Bread
"This recipe is designed for someone who wants to make good, crusty loaves of white bread from start to finish in one day. Mix the dough first thing in the morning, shape it into two loaves about five hours later, and then bake in the late afternoon in time for dinner. It's also a good first recipe to try from this book to help you get familiar with my dough handling techniques." – Ken Forkish
- 7 3/4 c. white all-purpose flour (1000 grams) (don't use bread flour)
- 3 1/8 c. warm water (720 grams)
- 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. fine sea salt (21 grams)
- 1 tsp. instant active dry yeast (4 grams)
Bulk fermentation: About 5 hours
Proof time: about 1 1/4 hours
Sample schedule: Begin at 9:30 a.m., finish mixing at 10 a.m., shape into loaves at 3 p.m. and bake at 4:15 p.m. The bread will be out of the oven just after 5 p.m.
1. Autolyse: In a 12-quart round tub or similar container, combine the flour with the 90- to 95-degree water. Mix by hand just until incorporated. Cover and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Mix: Sprinkle the salt and yeast evenly over the top of the dough. Mix by hand, wetting your working hand before mixing so the dough doesn't stick to you. (It's fine to rewet your hand three or four times while you mix.) Reach underneath the dough and grab about one-quarter of it. Gently stretch this section of dough and fold it over the top to the other side of the dough. Repeat three more times with the remaining dough, until the salt and yeast are fully enclosed.
Using your thumb and forefinger like pincers, squeeze big chunks of dough and then tighten your grip to cut through the dough five or six times across the entire mass of dough, rewetting your hands as necessary to keep dough from sticking. Then fold the dough over itself a few times. Repeat, alternately cutting and folding until all of the ingredients are fully integrated and the dough has some tension in it. Let the dough rest for a few minutes, then fold for another 30 seconds or until the dough tightens up. The whole process should take about 5 minutes. The target dough temperature at the end of the mix is 77 to 78 degrees. Cover the tub and let the dough rise.
3. Fold: This dough needs two folds. Apply the first fold about 10 minutes after mixing: With a moistened hand, reach underneath the dough and grab about one-quarter of it. Gently stretch this section of dough and fold it over the top to the other side of the dough. Repeat three or four times, then invert the dough so seams are face down. You have just completed the first fold. Make the second fold during the next hour (when you see the dough spread out in the tub, it's ready for the second fold). If need be, it's OK to fold later; just be sure to leave it alone for the last hour of rising.
When the dough is triple its original volume, about 5 hours after mixing, it's ready to be divided.
4. Divide: Moderately flour a work surface about 2 feet wide. Flour your hands and sprinkle a bit of flour around the edges of the tub. Tip the tub slightly and gently work your floured free hand beneath the dough to loosen it from the bottom of the tub. Gently ease the dough out onto the work surface without pulling or tearing it.
With floured hands, pick up the dough and ease it back down onto the work surface in a somewhat even shape. Dust the area in the middle, where you'll cut the dough, with a bit of flour. Cut the dough into 2 equal-size pieces with a dough knife or plastic dough scraper.
5. Shape: Dust 2 proofing baskets with flour – (use a lot of flour or the dough will stick – if you don't have proofing baskets use a small mixing bowl, well floured). Shape each piece of dough into a medium-tight ball by stretching a quarter of the ball over itself and repeating three more times. Place each ball seam side down in its proofing basket.
6. Proof: Lightly flour the tops of the loaves. Set them side by side and cover with a kitchen towel, or place each basket in a nonperforated plastic bag.
Plan to bake the loaves about 1 1/4 hours after they are shaped, assuming a room temperature of about 70 degrees. If your kitchen is warmer, they will be optimally proofed in about 1 hour. Use the finger-dent test (see note) to determine when they are perfectly proofed and ready to bake, being sure to check the loaves after 1 hour. With this bread, 15 minutes can make the difference between being perfectly proofed and collapsing a bit.
7. Preheat: At least 45 minutes prior to baking, put a rack in the middle of the oven and put 2 Dutch ovens on the rack with their lids on. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
If you only have 1 Dutch oven, put the second loaf into the refrigerator about 20 minutes before baking the first loaf and bake the loaves sequentially, giving the Dutch oven a 5-minute reheat after removing the first loaf. Alternatively, you can keep the second loaf in the refrigerator overnight, in its proofing basket inside a nonperforated plastic bag, and bake it early the next morning; if you do this, put the second loaf in the refrigerator immediately after shaping.
8. Bake: For the next step, please be careful not to let your hands, fingers or forearms touch the extremely hot Dutch oven. (I like to put my oven mitt on top of the lid when I take it out to make sure I don't burn my hand).
Invert the proofed loaf onto a lightly floured countertop, keeping in mind that the top of the loaf will be the side that was facing down while it was rising — the seam side. Use oven mitts to remove the preheated Dutch oven from the oven. Remove the lid. Carefully place the loaf in the hot Dutch oven seam side up (I had to basically drop it in because the dutch oven was so hot). Use mitts to replace the lid, then put the Dutch oven in the oven. Maintain the temperature at 475 degrees.
Bake for 30 minutes, then carefully remove the lid and bake for about 20 more minutes, until at least medium dark brown all around the loaf. Check after 15 minutes of baking uncovered in case your oven runs hot.
Remove the Dutch oven and carefully tilt it to turn the loaf out. Let cool on a rack or set the loaf on its side so air can circulate around it. Let the loaf rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
I’m here with any questions you might have for this Perfect Crusty Artisan White Bread! Be sure to message me on Instagram @plumstreetcollective if you need any tips.