/> a mother's heart » Blog Archive » Tasty Saturday? experimenting with artisan bread


I’ve been baking my family’s bread for the past 18 months or so and have a pretty decent (near-perfect, for me) whole wheat bread recipe.  I don’t mind the work – it’s about 30 minutes of actual work every 10 days or so – the appliances do most of the work for me.  😉

I’m content – it’s 100% whole wheat, but there are times when I’d love a hot loaf of bread to go with a dinner and don’t have one.  So I’ve been experimenting.  I’ve toyed with a whole wheat version of Macaroni Grill’s rosemary bread (which is yum!), and then I read a column by Mary Hunt (of Debt Proof Living fame) that talked about Artisan Breads – and breads that don’t require all the work of a traditional loaf of bread, but are largely self-sustaining lumps of dough.  Huh.  So Mary got my curiosity up.

I read a lot online that day about the book it came from (Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day) and thought it looked interesting, but every. single. loaf. was made with white all-purpose flour.


Since we’ve adopted a modified Nourishing Traditions way of eating, white flour is a no-no except for things like pie crust and fluffy dumplings.  Everything else is whole wheat – I prefer a white whole wheat, which is a softer wheat flour, but retains all the healthful benefits of traditional whole wheat flour.  So a five-pound bag of white flour often lasts us a good 8-9 months or longer around here and I wasn’t about to try doing anything bread-wise with white flour.  I might as well spoon-feed myself high fructose corn syrup for all the health benefits I’d get and as sick as I’d get eating the stuff.  And those of you who know me know that ain’t gonna happen.

So I continue to poke around online and come up with a modified recipe from the Artisan Bread… book and find one that says I can substitute up to 1.5 cups of whole wheat flour for white AP flour with “great results.”  Again, if you know me well, you know that a recipe is merely a suggestion to me and I immediately tweaked it.  My line of thinking was, “Well, if this fails, all I’m out is 6.5 cups of flour, a bit of salt & yeast, and some water.  No biggie.”

So I did tweak it – it called for 6.5 cups (total) of white AP flour and I divided it evenly between AP and whole wheat.  I have incredible trust in my chosen yeast (SAF Yeast), as it’s proven strong enough to handle double-rises with 100% whole wheat dough and doesn’t need to be proofed in order to use it.  The recipe was written for non-bakers, or at least, those who don’t bake bread regularly, because its main selling-point was how *easy* this was to make.  Most people wouldn’t have SAF on hand, much less know that it’s a superior yeast, so 1.5 tablespoons of regular yeast is probably about 1 tablespoon of SAF.  I kept the yeast measurement at 1.5 tablespoons, just because I was messing with the amount of whole wheat flour.  😉


So unlike any other time when I’ve baked bread and used my KitchenAid mixer, I yanked out my largest mixing bowl & a wooden spoon.  I mixed the wet & dry ingredients and set it on the counter to rise for 2-5 hours (it’s a pretty forgiving recipe).  Then I punched it down, put a lid on the bowl, and stuck it in the fridge.  Unreal.  I was convinced this was going to bomb.

The container needed to be “burped” as it aged overnight – no big deal – and it didn’t look very pliable or like it would produce a good “crumb” (the inner texture of bread).  I gave it until the next afternoon to try anything with it.

The book says you need to cut off a piece “about the size of a grapefruit” and roll it in flour (not kneading it).  Then you’re supposed to let it “rest” on a pizza peel (the flat, wooden handled-things you see in some restaurants and in fancy kitchens).  That cornmeal on the bottom of the dough will keep it from sticking when you transfer it from the peel to the hot stone in the oven.  Meh.  I don’t have a pizza peel and I sure as heck aren’t going to buy one just to try a recipe! 

So the next best thing was the backside of a metal baking tray I have with the dough on a piece of parchment paper.  I cut off a hunk of dough, floured it generously, and put it on the parchment on the tray to let it rest.  In the meantime, I stuck my largest pizza stone in the oven with an empty cake pan.  I let the dough rest for a good 1.5 hours and heated the oven to 450F for 20 minutes before baking.  When it was time to put the dough lump in, I sliced the top to allow it to spread a bit, slid it on the hot stone, and put about a cup of water in the cake pan in order to give it a steam while it baked.  I closed the door and only peeked a few times – but I honestly thought it was going to bomb.img00089

I baked it for 30 minutes and added an extra five (didn’t need it, though) and pulled it out to cool … and this was my end product.  The photo isn’t great because I just used the camera on my phone, but the next time I bake this, I will take real photos.  😉

The crust is hard (crunchy) and chewy, and the bread crumb itself is light, airy, and delish.  I served it that night to guests who don’t mind being guinea pigs for my cooking experiments and there wasn’t a single piece left from the loaf when we cleared the table.  The loaves are small(er) and are probably about .75lb when baked.  But they are goooooood.  The rest of the dough is in the covered bowl in the fridge – waiting for the next baking expedition.  If Mark & Brendan had their ways, it would be every night!  I’m told you can keep the dough at the ready for up to 2 weeks in the fridge without spoilage or problem.

I’m putting my tweaked recipe below and tagging this as a Tasty Tuesday, even though it’s going up on a Saturday.  Sue me.  😉

Happy baking!

Sue’s Tweaked Whole Wheat Blend Artisan Bread

3.25 c. white all purpose flour
3.25 c. white whole wheat flour (I use either King Arthur or Trader Joe’s)
1.5 T. salt (I use Redmond Real Salt)
1.5 T. yeast (SAF is my preferred yeast)
3 c. warm water

In a large bowl, mix yeast & salt in to water, add flours and stir with a spoon.  Set it aside with a light towel covering it to rise for 2-5 hours, or overnight, if necessary.  You’re looking for it to double in volume during this rise.

Punch it down and either cut off a piece and bake it now or put it in the fridge, covered.  If you choose an airtight lid, be aware that you will have to burp the container every so often.

When you’re ready to bake it, cut off a piece about the size of a grapefruit, toss it in some flour and roll it on the counter.  Turn the dough in your hands, stretching the surface of the dough and tucking it underneath so the top is smooth & the bottom is bunched up.

Allow it to rest for a minimum of 40 minutes, preferably up to 90 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 450F with a stone & shallow pan in it.  The shallow pan should be on the top shelf of your oven.  When you slide the dough on the hot stone (either via the parchment/flat pan or a pizza peel), put 1-2 cups of water in the shallow pan & close the oven door to create a steam bath.

Bake for 30 minutes, remove & cool.  Slice & serve – if you get that far.  Your family might attack the loaf as soon as it’s cool enough to touch, if they’re anything like mine.  😉


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