Special of the day: Bake Artisan Bread at Home

06 Mar Special of the day: Bake Artisan Bread at Home


Beautiful artisan bread baked at home

Longing to bake beautiful artisan bread at home had me pondering possibilities… Scenarios of painstakingly positioning pans of water on a bottom oven rack to produce a steam bath or perhaps arming myself with a spray bottle to mist the baking loaf throughout the process flooded into my mind. Wouldn’t I have to somehow introduce steam to achieve the crispy crust you crunch into when feasting on a fresh loaf of artisan bread?

Boy, was I wrong!

Calling upon our resident expert, Big Sky Bread and Pastry owner Matt Carlson, I soon found out that baking artisan bread at home requires nothing more than a Dutch oven, a food scale and a short list of ingredients: flour, yeast, water and salt. (Carlson recommends using King Arthur all-purpose flour.

A craftsman with bread, Carlson says artisan baking is all about chemistry: balancing ingredients to achieve the desired results. Literally balancing, that is, as he recommends you always weigh your ingredients on a food scale to ensure consistency. Gifted with specific instructions and step-by-step photos is like having Carlson at your side in the kitchen as you recreate artisan bread reminiscent of the lovely loaves he proudly provides at Big Sky Bread and Pastry at 1300 9th Street South. Call 406.315.1747 Wednesday through Saturday to see what wonderful creation is hot and fresh and coming out of the oven.

Walking you through artisan bread baking at home is Big Sky Bread and Pastry owner Matt Carlson with his recipe for Basic White French Bread. Happy baking!

Recipe and food photography by Matt Carlson.

Basic White French Bread

(Recipe by Matt Carlson)

*You will need a food scale for this recipe, as measurements are listed in grams.

863 grams King Arthur all-purpose flour

634 grams water (at 80 degrees Fahrenheit)

3 grams instant yeast

17 grams salt

Preheat your Dutch oven.

Preheat your oven and Dutch oven at 450 degrees 45-60 minutes before baking.

Mix the flour and water until they are combined. Let dough rest for 30 minutes.

1. Mix the flour and water until they are combined. Let rest for 30 minutes. This is called an autolyse.

2. Add yeast and 2 tbsp. water and using a wet hand begin to work it in by hand. Then add the salt and continue folding and pinching the dough between your thumb and index finger until your dough comes back together, about 5-10 minutes. You should have a nice smooth mass of dough. (Remember to keep a pitcher of water handy to wet hands so they don’t stick to the dough.)

3. At this point, we’re giving the dough what is called a bulk rise. This will take 4-5 hours. Give the dough a fold every 15 minutes the first 4-5 times in the first hour. This will develop strength. The dough will double in size and be nice and puffy when it is ready.

Let loaves proof.

4. Divide the dough into two pieces (750 grams each). Then round them into nice balls and place them seam side down in two bread proofing baskets or two bowls with towels in them. (Be sure to dust your basket with a decent amount of flour so your dough doesn’t stick.) The bread will proof for 1 and ½ to 2 hours. It will hold an indentation but also spring back about halfway after being poked.

Load the loaf in the preheated Dutch oven.

5. Now it’s time to load. Don’t forget to use your oven mitts. 😉 Take your Dutch oven from the oven. Be sure to be careful as it is extremely hot. Set it on top of the oven, remove the lid and set aside. Sprinkle a little flour in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Now working quickly, lightly dump your dough on a floured counter. The seams should be up and you should see a cracked looking surface. (Do not flip the dough over. We want the cracks.) Using both hands, pick it up. With a scooping motion, keeping your fingers together, set the dough inside the Dutch oven. (Remember: it’s hot. Be careful.) Now put the lid back on with your mitts and put it back in the oven with the lid on. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the bread is dark brown and beautiful.

Beautiful artisan bread baked at home

Happy baking!

Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at sydnegeorge@hotmail.com . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.

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