There are many ways to adapt bread formulas to suit your preference for types of flours, addition of nuts, herbs, seeds, or whole cooked grains. My recommendation is to start with the basic formula below. Keep notes for yourself of any changes to my recipe as well as your room temp and proof times. Soon you'll be customizing your own recipe and I hope having as much fun as I do. And of course, enjoying and sharing fabulous bread!Note that this recipe is written in grams because measurements really do make a difference. I've provided some cup measures but I recommend to use a scale because cups vary significantly. Remember, you need to make the yeast water 5-6 days ahead of baking. Once it's made, only a portion is used for this recipe and the remainder keeps refrigerated until ready to bake again. See link for making yeast water in the post above, and in the recipe below.Read through the recipe below to follow the two-day process with 'preferment' for exceptional bakery style bread, Or, stir up a batch of dough now using my Easiest Ever No-Knead Artisan Bread - Rosemary Mark recipe for yeast water, and in 18 hours it will be ready to bake. The quicker version without preferment is a little less 'bakery style' and is still a fabulous home-baked loaf.
Servings: 2two lb loaves
Author: Rosemary Mark
Cast iron or enamel coated cast iron Dutch oven that withstands 500F oven.
6 quart cambro bucket or very large bowl
Gram scale is preferable to measuring cups
optional: dough scraper; plastic shower cap
Preferment - make 12-24 hours before mixing Final Dough. This means up to 48 hours before baking.
100gramsyeast water, heated to 90-95F (~1/3c plus 1 Tbsp)YW instructions in PDF link in notes below
100gramswhole wheat spelt flour or whole wheat (~3/4 cup)or 50:50 any whole wheat or rye flour and all-purpose white flour
Final Dough - start 24 hours before you want to bake the bread
700gramswhite bread flour (~5-1/2cups + 2Tbsp)all-purpose flour also works, I prefer the slightly more structured texture with bread flour.
200gramswhole wheat flour (~1 cup + 2Tbsp)
550grams tap water or filtered water (~2-1/3 cups)or 600 grams water for softer/moister crumb
100gramsyeast water (~1/2 cup minus 1Tbsp)
18-20gramssalt (~5 tsp. Kosher salt)Less salt as low as 12 grams or to your preference. Other salts can be used such as gray salt or fleur de sel. Table salt can be used and is 3 tsp per 18grams.
Step 1) MAKE PREFERMENT 24-48 hours before you want to bake bread.Stir together the 100 grams 90-95F yeast water and 100 grams whole wheat flour. Let stand at room temperature at least 12 hours or up to 48 hrs. It should double in about 24hrs. At this point either use the preferment or refrigerate for up to two days. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.
Step 2) START DOUGH 24 hours before planning to bake bread. In a 6-quart container or bowl, stir together the flours. Combine the tap water (or filtered water), and yeast water in a bowl or 4-cup measure. Heat to 90-95F (in my microwave this takes 60-75 seconds).
Stir together the flours and warmed yeast water mixture until all the dry and wet are just combined. No need to knead! Let stand 20-30 minutes or up to 1 hour. This is the autolyse stage which hydrates the flour and starts to activate the enzymes and the gluten forming proteins, improving the dough's ability to stretch and hold shape.
Now pour the preferment and the salt over the dough. Begin the mixing by lifting and folding the dough over and scooping up from the bottom of the container. Then pinch across the dough making chunks, then refold over itself until all the ingredients are combined. This usually takes me 2-3 minutes.
Let the dough rest 30 seconds, then do a couple more folds and let it relax into the bowl. Cover the container (plastic shower cap works well) and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Ideal temperature is between 70-80F. If less than 70F, expect the dough to take a lot longer to proof.
Step 3) FOLDING: Now you'll start the series of three folds every 30 minutes (the time doesn't have to be exact, even an hour is ok). Here's how to fold: lift an edge of the dough as far as it will go pulling gently, then fold it over itself. Do this 4-6 more times around the bowl to make a smooth-ish ball.
The dough tightens with each stretch so the last time it barely stretches up. Cover and let rest again about 30 minutes. Repeat the stretching 3-4 times at interval of about 30 minutes, which will take about 2 hours. Don't stress if you let it go longer, just not more than 3 hours.
Step 4) PROOFING (also called bulk fermentation): Now cover the bowl and let it do it's thing. Time will vary greatly from 4 or 5 hours to 8-10 hours depending on room temperature. I set the container on a cloth, not directly on the cold countertop. Or, in a proof box such as this folding proofer and set the temperature to 75F. If I need it to go faster because of my schedule for shaping, then I use 78-80F. Up to 85F would be ok, but I prefer the lower temp which adds to flavor development.
Be patient! Dough should be about 2 to 2-1/2 times the original volume. Look for a slightly domed top and some bubbles on the surface. Also use the finger poke test by coating a finger with flour and indenting about 1/2-inch. Look for a slow rise back with the hole slowly enclosing. If it springs back immediately, it needs more time; if it doesn't spring back at all it is over-proofed.
Photo below is top down view of well-proofed dough. Domed with visible bubbles.
Photo below is very active dough; it could be over-proofed. Over-proofing weakens the gluten which tends to reduce the final rise (called oven spring) during baking. It may be a denser bread, contrary to expectation of making a lighter bread from such big bubbles. This dough still made delicious loaves!
Gently scrap the dough out of the container onto a floured work surface.
Flour the center top of the dough and cut in half with a dough scraper or knife.
Step 5) SHAPING Make 3-4 gentle stretch and folds to shape each piece of dough into a rough ball. Let rest 20-30 minutes. Then turn and tuck with hands or one hand and a bench scraper, moving around the ball several times to form a smooth and taught ball. Use little or no flour allowing the dough to create tension on the work surface. If the dough is very sticky, wet hands can help shape better than flour. The dough will become more taught, and bubbles will form on the surface as the dough is rounded into a ball. Prick any very large bubbles as they tend to burn during baking. See the link in the notes below to Ken Forkish on YouTube for detailed instruction on folding and shaping dough.
FINAL PROOF: Turn into lightly floured cloth lined bowl or banneton. Refrigerate uncovered 8-16 hours. I've left refrigerated up to 36 hours, which is ok but seemed to make a slightly more dense crumb.
Step 6) BAKE To bake in preheated oven, place cast iron or ceramic Dutch oven in cold oven. Heat to 500F (my oven takes 45 minutes). CAREFULLY remove pan from oven, and turn lightly flour dusted dough directly from bowl or banetton into the hot pan. Score a slash (or a smile!) on top if desired, then immediately cover and return to oven. Reduce oven to 475F. Bake 25 minutes covered; remove lid and bake additional 15-25 minutes until deep golden brown.
To bake starting from cold oven, turn dough into unheated Dutch oven lined with lightly floured parchment or silpat. Dough tends to stick in the cold pan if not lined. Place pan in upper third of oven. Turn on to 425F, convection or conventional. Time 50 minutes. Remove lid and bake additional 5-10 minutes until crust is deep golden brown. Both techniques work well. There may be slightly more rise in the preheated oven, but the total oven time is longer.
Bake until well browned for the best crust and interior crumb.
Turn out immediately on a wire rack. And try not to slice the loaf for at least an hour! Slicing hot will compress the interior and change the texture of the loaf.
How to Make Yeast WaterKen Forkish YouTube: Shaping the Loaves - Bing videoLink to my Yeast Water Baking Demo for the Bakers Dozen San FranciscoFor ready-to-eat in under 24 hours Link to Easiest Ever No Knead BreadBread flour vs all-purpose flour: If you only have all-purpose flour, go ahead and bake with it! Preferably unbleached but bleached will work also, the crumb may be finer with all-purpose vs bread flour.I like to use Guisto's Malted Bread Flour which has a small amount of malted barley. Guisto's description. 'The addition of malt increases enzymatic activity during fermentation. This yields bread with greater volume without diminishing the integrity of the open crumb. It also increases the depth of color in your crust. This is the best organic malted bread flour for baguettes and sourdough breads of any shape and size. This flour also works very well in laminated doughs and quick doughs.'When adjusting recipes, keep in mind that whole wheat flour takes in a little more water when hydrating. As little as 15-50 grams more or less water can make a difference. Best to keep notes on type flour and amount of water you use for your preferred results.Water: Some recipes recommend filtered water. I have used my tap water and also my faucet filtered water, both with success.