How to Make an Artisan Bread
Artisan breads have an open crumb, a fantastic chewy crust, and a country sour taste. If you were doing them from scratch, you would need a sourdough starter. It’s much simpler using one of country or sourdough bread mixes. Then it’s easy to amaze your family and friends with this simple bread.
We recommend these bread mixes for your artisan loaves:
- San Francisco Style Sourdough — This is the classic sour bread of San Francisco fame. It’s the sourest of the breads with thick chewy crust.
- Italian Country — This is much milder. It’s a country bread not a sourdough. It has a more crackly crust.
- French Miche Bread — This is the mildest of the three. This is a very light bread with a chewy, hearth bread crust. This is a country version of the traditional French. It’s made with some ground seeds but not enough to make it heavy or dark colored.
Each of these will make a chewy, crusty European-type bread with an open crumb.
- Mix the bread according to package instructions using the dough setting. The cycle is 1 1/2 hours in most machines. Let the dough set in the machine for another 30 minutes while it rises.
- Line an 11x17-baking sheet with parchment paper. Put a heavy dusting of flour on the parchment paper.
- Lightly dust your countertop with flour. Dump the dough onto the countertop and pat and pull the dough into a flat, rough log 5 inches wide by about 18 inches in length.
- Cut the log horizontally into two pieces to make two loaves. Place each loaf on the prepared sheet pan to rise. Place the pan in a proofing bag or cover it with plastic.
- Let the bread rise for one to 1 1/2 hours at room temperature until it triples in size. (If your kitchen is cool, consider setting the bagged dough in front of the window to pick up a little solar heat.)
- Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425°F. If you have a baking stone, place that in the oven to heat.
- When you're ready to bake, generously dust the loaves with flour with a flour shaker and sprinkle or mist some water on the bread. Place the baking sheet with the loaves in the oven. (If you are using a baking stone, slide the loaves onto the stone.) Bake them for 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust turns a deep golden brown.
- Turn the oven off, prop the door open about five inches and let the bread cool for at least 15 minutes.
Baker's Note: You can use your stand-type mixer if you don't have a bread machine. Use your dough hook and knead the bread for at least ten minutes at medium-high speed. The dough will be sticky. Cover and let it rise for at least an hour. Then put the dough on the counter and proceed from there.