Rather than spending up to five dollars for a single loaf of artisan-style bread at the grocery store, you can quickly make artisan-style bread at home for less than one dollar for two 12-ounce loaves.
Most major grocery chains don’t actually make the artisan-style breads they are selling. These breads come in frozen, in a form known as “par-baked”. The store bakeries simply heat and crisp the crusts, then package and put the bread on the shelf.
Many artisan-style breads are stone-baked and it is very easy to line any oven rack with baking stones. For less than $15, most big-box lumber/hardware stores sell unglazed quarry or terra cotta tiles. Available in 4-inch or 6-inch sizes, any oven can be turned into a stone oven with enough tiles to cover the oven rack, leaving room around the edges for circulation.
Instant yeast will reduce homemade bread preparation time by half. This yeast is used in “single-rise” techniques, and most recipes can be adapted to instant yeast. Rather than “proofing” the yeast prior to adding it to the flour, instant yeast is mixed with the dry ingredients. The water temperature is warmer and all of the components are mixed together at once.
Easy Homemade Artisan-Style Bread
5 cups bread flour (approximately)
4 ½ teaspoons instant (rapid-rise) yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ cups water (120-130 degrees)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine 2 cups bread flour, yeast, sugar and salt.
With mixer on the lowest speed, slowly add water then olive oil.
Mix on low speed until mixture is combined, scraping the sides if necessary.
Increase the speed to 3 and slowly add enough additional flour to make a smooth, soft dough.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10-12 times until dough is not sticky.
Cover dough with a clean cloth and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Punch down dough and divide into two equal portions.
Shape each piece of dough into an oval and place on parchment paper.
Allow dough to rise until doubled, approximately 45 minutes to one hour.
Preheat oven with baking stones to 400 degrees.
When dough has doubled, slash the top with a very sharp knife.
Brush the surface of the bread with olive oil.
Using the bottom of a baking sheet or a pizza peel, slide the bread (and parchment paper) into the preheated oven onto the baking stones.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped.