Here’s a bread, done in its simplest form, Pot Bread, Artisan Bread, “Crusty Bread” are just a few of the names used to describe it. Flour, Salt, Sugar & Yeast, the recipe couldn’t be easier or more “hands off.” Not including the (admittedly long) wait time for the yeast to work its magic, it literally takes 5 minutes to make. And it’s positively delicious!
I don’t think we’ve ever waited for a loaf to cool. We’re cutting it up and digging in as soon as we can safely do so! The crust is absolutely amazing. I’ve had people ask for more, only to pick off the crust and eat it.
And talk about cheap! When I first made this in April of 2012, it ran about 25 cents. I’m guessing now, about 35 cents. A loaf of “Artisan Bread” at my store ran $4.99 in 2012, and I can’t even tell you how much a loaf runs for now.
I never have to buy it and haven’t looked at store-bought since the fateful day I came across this little recipe! That store bread, by the way? Not nearly as good, it was a pale anemic, dismal thing compared to this, and it only weighed a pound – if it were a 1 1/2 pounds like this bread, it would have cost $7.49.
While I’ve made more complex, perfect and/or showy breads, this is a good, dense, chewy bread with a great crust – no fuss, no bother, very little mess. In the past, I’ve fermented my own wild yeast, fooled around with bigas, French ferments, misting, cooking stones & bricks, but I don’t really do that any longer – too much babysitting! This Crusty Bread, I make all the time.
Just a note of caution! You’ll be working with a heavy, screaming hot pot! Make sure you have a place to set it when you take it out of the oven and a place to put the lid – two clear burners are probably the safest place.
Special equipment: See below!
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon yeast
- 1 1/2 cups water
- When ready to cook, have ready in a small container, about 2 tablespoons of water, already measured out.)
In a medium sized mixing bowl, measure out flour, salt and yeast. Use a fork or whisk to mix together. Add water and mix (a spoonula works great) until a shaggy mixture forms. Cover bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours. Overnight works great and the timing is not particular.
Adjust oven rack to the highest level that will accommodate a your pan and allow you to easily get it in and out of the oven.
When ready to cook, turn dough out, very carefully, without deflating the dough (nudge it with a spatula, gently, if it sticks) on a heavily floured piece of parchment paper that’s a little larger than the bottom of the pan. You’ll want the parchment to go slightly up the sides for easy removal of the bread.
Flour hands and gently cupping at either side of the bread, keeping pinkies and sides of palm down, form a little, loose “ball” of dough by pressing in at the bottom of the dough. If the dough sticks, add a bit more flour. Cover with plastic (the same one you used to cover during the rise is fine) or a clean kitchen towel. Carefully place parchment on a plate and set in a warm place (perhaps the front, not the back, which is too warm, of the stove) to rest as the oven preheats.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees, with the pan inside, lid ajar, for 20 minutes.
Working quickly, remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough, parchment and all. Toss in the water, right over the dough and immediately place the lid back on.
Return immediately to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the top is golden brown (a few dark places are just fine.) Place on cooling rack.
- The dough may be formed on a heavily floured counter and then moved to a piece of parchment.
- If you’d like, you may make three slashes across the dough with a very sharp knife before adding it to the pan.
from the kitchen of http://www.frugalhausfrau.com
- An enameled cast iron Dutch oven, regular Dutch oven or any pot/pan with a lid that will withstand this very high oven temperature.
- If you know the make of your pan, check the manufacturer’s site (if you no longer have the booklet) to see if your pan will be okay.) If the problem is the plastic knob, remove it and cover the hole with a bit of dough to seal it.
- An old-fashioned speckled casserole does work, but gives just a bit of a strange bottom due to the indentations.
- I haven’t tried this, but if your baking stone will take the temperature and length of time (and it should) it could be used with a stainless steel bowl as a lid – in this case, don’t toss the water on, but do mist and be very careful lifting up the bowl when removing it.
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read Strategies for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
My Pay Off:
- With just minutes of work (and a lot of sitting around time) I’ve made a fantastic, wholesome bread for my family at a fraction of the cost of buying…and it tastes better than the bread from my grocer’s bakery!
- While becoming more health conscious over the years, we tend to eat a lot less bread than in the past. When I make this I can be sure that there are no strange additives and I know the flavor is fantastic.
- Biggest payoff? Literally five minutes work, practically no clean up and I have a marvelous bread.
Consider, as a Gift:
This bread is a great idea for a hostess gift, a gift for a friend, but beyond that, consider giving a young person his/her first enameled cast iron pan (something I didn’t even have until later in life) filled with a container of the premade dough, some butter in a butter saver or butter dish or a good olive oil in a pretty, reusable cruet, a small bag of flour & a container of yeast. And of course, a copy of this blog page! Walk them through the first baking, if possible.
Crusty Bread made February 2012, repriced March 2015