I've posted many times about my challah - various strands of braided challah, round challah, croation star challahs, but I haven't yet blogged about artisan bread, which makes a hearty addition to any Shabbos table, especially for those families that are into "the dips".
Artisan bread is a bread that is produced by hand in small batches, slowly fermented, and often utilizes steam to create its signature crispy crust. The resulting bread is soft, chewy and hearty with a hard outer shell.
You don't need many ingredients for this gem, but you do need some equipment. Firstly, you need an cast iron pot with lid, that can withstand oven temperatures of 500 degrees. Secondly you need a good bread knife ;)
There are lots of tutorials available online, but this is how I make mine for Shabbos with as little fuss and cleanup as possible.
On Thursday night, in a ziploc bag, combine three scooped cups (don't delicately spoon flour into the measuring cup and level neatly... dig right in and scoop, pack, and overflow the cup a bit!) of bread flour, 1/4 tsp. (yes that's all!) of dry yeast, 1 1/4 tsp. of salt and 1 1/2 cups of tepid water. Squish everything up in the bag until well combined. Dough will be sticky, but your fingers never touch it ;)
Leave the sealed ziploc bag for 12-24 hours (18 is just perfect, which fortuitously brings us to Friday afternoon).
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees with the lidded cast iron pot inside. When the oven and pot have reached the right temperature, turn the dough out on to a floured surface. It WILL be goopy. Fold in each of the corners once and flip the dough over to make a round ball. Drop the ball (careful! It's really hot!!) into the hot pot and put the lid back on. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 10 minutes more.
The result is bread like you've never had before. Eat bare, with dips or with my home-made mayonnaise. Once cut, it doesn't keep very well (make croutons), but there are seldom leftovers anyway.