One of my favorite types of bread is artisan bread. You know the type of bread they give you at restaurants or that you picture them eating all day in Italy? Yea, that's what I'm talking about. Ohhh man I could eat artisan bread all day, literally ( I ate 6 slices back to back after making this batch today). Once I conquered this artisan bread recipe I felt like I could conquer anything. I am not sure why. I think it has something to do with this bread just seeming more fancy then it actually is. So don't feel discouraged from this recipe! Anybody can do it. Enjoy!
3 cups lukewarm water (100-110 degrees)
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1. Add yeast and salt to warm water in a 5-quart bowl or lidded plastic food container. Don't worry about getting all of the yeast to dissolve.
2. Mix in the flour- kneading is unnecessary. Put all of the flour in at once and mix with a wooden spoon or high-capacity food processor with the dough hook attachment. Mix until everything is uniformly moist and there are no dry patches. This step is done in a matter of minutes, and will yield a dough that is wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.
3. Allow to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flatten on the top). This is approximately 2 hours. After allowing to rise, you can refrigerate it overnight (or at least 3 hours) to have a more manageable dough. **I never did this step (I'm too impatient) and my bread turned out great!**
4. Prep a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent your loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven. Sprinkle the surface of your dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound piece of dough, using a serrated knife. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it wont stick to your hands Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides. (The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but don't worry! It will flatten out). **The whole point of this step is to handle the dough as little as possible. You want to shape it into a loaf in 30 to 60 seconds.**
5. Rest the loaf and let it rise on a pizza peel for 40 minutes (feel free to cover it if you would like, but it isn't necessary)
6. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread.
7. Dust the bread liberally with flour and then slash a 1/4-inch cross, "scallop", or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top of the bread, using a serrated knife. (Dusting the bread will help the knife not stick to the dough).
8. With a quick forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the preheated baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water form the tap into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam.
9. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Allow to cool completely for best flavor, texture, and slicing.