While reading one of my favorite cooking magazines, Cooking Club (yes, I am a lifetime member), I came across a section called “fast, easy artisan bread: make a batch of dough in just minutes to use throughout the week.” I thought about how fun it would be to make my own rustic bread instead of buying it at Trader Joes. Yeah, it’s always easier to just buy what you need, but I think it is way more fun to try making it yourself, even if only just once. That’s the point of kitchen tested, isn’t it?!? So I decided to make artisan bread! What could be difficult about that? Let’s just say that counting cups of flour while skyping with your mom is not a good idea.

The great thing about this artisan bread recipe is that the dough can sit in the fridge for up to two weeks, and you can make more than just bread with it. So you can make the master dough, bake some bread, then the following week you can make a chocolate pastry.

Master Artisan Bread recipe:

3 1/2 cups lukewarm water

4 tsp active dry yeast

4 tsp coarse salt (I used sea salt since that’s what I had in the house)

7 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Combine water, yeast and salt in a 5-quart lidded container. Stir in flour. The dough will be very wet. This is where you should make sure to count the cups of flour correctly. Get off of the phone, turn off the TV, just focus on the counting! Trust me. Once the dough is ready, cover the container but do not shut airtight. Let rise for 2 hours at room temperature then refrigerate overnight before baking. So simple!

Now comes the best part…baking the Crusty Boule, which is the basic artisan bread. The magazine describes it as a classic European-style loaf with a crisp crust and soft center. It is perfect for serving with soups and salads. I totally agree. I plan to start by melting some nice pepperjack cheese on the crusty bread and eat it along side hearty tomato soup.

I had so much fun making this bread. It was very sticky and the dough got stuck between my fingers while I shaped it in to a ball. Just keep flour on hand! In order to shape the dough, I dusted the top of a grapefruit-size portion of the master recipe and quickly shaped it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the dough a quarter turn as I went. You don’t want to work the dough too much, but it might take a few pulls to get used to the technique.

I placed the dough on parchment paper, which was lining a baking sheet, then covered it lightly with floured plastic wrap and let it stand for 1 hour in a warm draft-free place (my microwave). 30 minutes before baking, I placed a baking stone, which I just purchased from Bed Bath and Beyond specifically for this recipe, on the center rack in my oven and heated it up to 450 degrees. I also placed an empty broiler pan on the bottom oven rack to later be filled with water.

After an hour, the dough was slightly puffed and ready to bake.   

I dusted the loaf with flour and made 3 slashes in the top of the loaf. I then cut the parchment paper around the dough so only a bit was showing on each side and then slid the dough directly in the oven on to the hot pizza stone. You might notice that my dough is a bit flat, and I will again blame that on a mis-count of flour while preparing the dough at the beginning of the process. Still rose in the oven though! Before closing the oven, I poured 1 cup of water in the baking pan on the bottom shelf and then quickly closed the oven door to trap the steam.

While baking the bread for 30 minutes, I noticed a lot of steam coming out through the vents in my oven, but it turns out that is a good thing for the baking process. When the crusty boule is done, it should be a deep golden bron and the loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Since the master artisan bread recipe can sit in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, you can make a crust boule today and then another one next week. Another option for me is to make a sweet dessert. I really love dessert! So I went to work on another recipe in the magazine called a Nutella Ring. Since I really made a messy version of it with my super sticky dough, I will just give you the recipe and you can just go for it!

Nutella Ring Recipe:

1 portion of Master Recipe

1/2 cup hazelnut spread, softened 

1 egg

1 tbsp water

1 tbsp sparkling or granulated sugar

1. Hold dough and dust top with flour; quickly shape into ball by stretching surface of dough around to bottom on all four sides, rotating dough a quarter turn as you go.

2. On floured surface, roll dough into 11×10-inch rectangle.

3. Microwave hazelnut spread for 10 to 20 seconds and spread over dough, leaving 1/4-inch border uncovered. Roll dough into log and gently shape until it measures around 16 inches. Bring the ends together to form a ring and pinch ends together. Place on parchment paper-lines baking sheet.

4. Cover loosely with lightly floured plastic wrap and let stand for 45-60 minutes in a draft free place.

5. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk egg and water and light brush over ring. Sprinkle with sugar. With kitchen shears, snip 1/2-inch-deep cuts 2 inches apart on top of ring.

6. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown.

This is my version! It is HUGE, but yummy. I suggest eating it warm.