How To Bake A Better Loaf Of Artisan Bread

What is Artisan Bread?

The definition of artisan bread is a clue to how to bake a better loaf of this type of bread. Artisan bread is light, fluffy, and has fewer ingredients and less fat content.

All bread, other than a quick cakey type of bread like banana, soda, zucchini, or pumpkin bread requires yeast. Yeast is the leavening agent that gives bread its flavor and height.

Yeast and You – BFFs

Most individuals who are new to bread baking fear recipes that include yeast. Yet yeast is the best friend a bread baker can have. Dispel your fears and your artisan bread will be perfect the minute it leaves your oven.

The secret to artisan bread baking includes:

  • Use bread flour which has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour. Bread flour absorbs more liquid than all-purpose flour and the higher level of protein provides a better rise of the dough.
  • Proof your yeast. Yeast when added to water or milk with oil or butter creates a foamy surface. The foam tells you the yeast is fully dissolved and proofed and ready to add to your flour.
  • Make sure the water or milk you add to your artisan bread recipe is heated to the correct temperature. Liquids that are too cold don’t allow the yeast to help flour rise.
  • If the recipe calls for milk, choose to skim. Powdered milk works well for artisan bread too.
  • Depending on the recipe, some artisan bread recipes ask for salt to be added to the proofed yeast. Other recipes prefer salt to be added to the bread flour. If the recipe calls for sugar to prove the yeast, honey can be substituted. For a darker, different bread flavor, try molasses.
  • Add yeast mixture slowly to the flour to give the flour a chance to absorb the new ingredients. If you prefer, use an electric mixer that has dough hooks.
  • Mix until a soft dough forms.

To Knead or Not To Knead, That is the Question

Some artisan bread recipes may not require kneading and the dough can be refrigerated overnight.

If you want big, airy pockets to form during baking, don’t add too much extra flour when giving the dough a light kneading.

Be prepared: artisan bread dough is sticky. Dust your hands with flour to remove excess dough.

Note that you can add extra flavor to your bread by adding dried herbs and spices like dill, rosemary, oregano, or dried parsley. Add this to dry ingredients before adding yeast mixture.

One tip to avoid sticky dough sticking to the bottom of s baking sheet or pan is to lightly oil the bottom of the pan and add parchment paper.

Give the bottom of your dough a light dusting with cornmeal. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

You can also use a preheated Dutch oven at 450 degrees F. for round loaves. Be sure to use oven mitts when removing heated pans.

Remove the plastic wrap and place the dough in the preheated pan or Dutch Oven. Cover pans with foil or place the lid n the Dutch Oven and bake at 450 F. for 30 minutes.

Enjoy Your Artisan Bread

Some people like bread warm out of the oven slathered in butter or jam. Others prefer to shape it into dinner rolls and serve them cooled. Either way, you prefer it there’s nothing quite like baking your own artisan bread.

You can shape artisan bread dough in small, round mounds to make pull-apart bread that the kids will love.

Baked artisan bread also has a sturdy crunchy crust. So it can be used as a soup bowl for your favorite soups when you remove the bread inside. Toast the unused bread, add your favorite dried seasonings and use for croutons for salads and soups.

There is nothing quite as impressive as your first ever loaf of artisan bread that looks as if you purchased it at a bakery.

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