Make an incredibly easy artisan bread with a crispy crust and airy interior in a cast iron dutch oven. This bread is one of our Best Bread Recipes and is made with whole wheat and all-purpose flour. It's a crusty bread recipe that will change the way you think about bread!
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This easy artisan bread recipe was one of the first recipes I published when AOC began in 2009 and it quickly became a fan favorite. Super simple, it also costs just pennies to make vs. $4-$6 artisanal loaves you can buy so you can enjoy making your own artisan bread whenever you want!
I make this easy artisan bread almost weekly - it's pretty addictive, quick to mix up, and produces a bread at home that is very similar to what you might find in a bakery. Our extended family and friends have consistently ooh'd and ahhh'd over it - it's one of my most tried-and-true favorite recipes.
And it could change the way you think about making bread.
Beyond that, looking at it from a frugal point of view, the total cost for 2 - 4 loaves (depending on how big you make them) is .65 cents! That's when flour is between .30-.50 cents per pound with about .10 added for bulk yeast and salt.
TIP: always try to buy your yeast in bulk. This is the yeast I buy (it's instant and works in all my bread recipes, whether they call for instant or not). It's SO much cheaper than the little packets - and you're going to be making a lot of bread when you try this - believe me!
How to Make Easy Artisan Bread
One of the reasons bread is so inexpensive to make and why you can save big-time by making your own artisan bread (as well as an everyday, easy soft 100% whole wheat sandwich bread) is that the ingredients are basic pantry staples: flour, water, yeast and salt.
How to Make Artisan Bread & Tips
- You can make this bread by hand, but I've always used a mixer because, well, it's easier. This is the mixer I use. When mixing your ingredients, add lukewarm water (about 115 degrees) which is usually the warmest water from your tap (it's important not to use water that's too hot, as that will kill the yeast).
- Mix the dough until it starts to clean the sides of the bowl, only about 30 seconds to a minute. This little bit of kneading, I've found, creates a better, more consistent texture.
- Transfer it to a very large, oiled, bowl (or if you mixed by hand, just leave it in the same bowl), and cover it with plastic wrap, but not airtight. Leave to sit on the counter 1-1/2 to 2 hours until it reaches the top of the bowl (bottom right photo above). TIP: Notice the time written on the plastic - that's my little trick to remind me when the time's up.
- Now just stick it in the refrigerator! You can leave it there for up to 14 days, according to the recipe I adapted this from, but I've found about a week is the longest we like it. It becomes more sour, like a sourdough, as it ages and I made a loaf at day 9 once and it was too sour for me. So, I always use it within a week. If I don't need bread, I make it anyway and freeze the loaf - it comes out perfectly!
The Secret to The Best Crust:
For the best results, with the most amazing crust ever, cook the bread in a hot enamel cast iron dutch oven with the lid on during the first 15 minutes.
- Pictured above is a 6-quart enameled cast iron pot by Lodge, similar to what I use.
- The enameled cast iron pot I use is this 6.5-quart pot by Tramontina, which is a little cheaper.
- You can use any size pot from 4 quarts to 7. The smaller size may aid in creating a taller loaf since there's less room to spread. Here's a Lodge 5.5 quart pot and a Better Homes & Gardens 5 quart pot.
According to a Cook's Illustrated article I read, when the steam escapes from the dough in the first minutes of baking at high temps, it hits the sides and creates it's own steam. Basically, as close to a bakery oven as we can get at home. Perfect!
Enamel Dutch ovens run between $50 and $300 (LeCruset, the Cadillac of enameled cookware) and even though I bought ours at the lower end, it's the most I've ever spent on a single piece of cookware.
It's been SO worth it, since I've made so many loaves of bread that it's paid for itself many times over - and I don't have to worry about spraying the loaf, adding ice or water to the oven or anything.
NOTE: I've had some readers worry about the temperature limits listed by manufacturers of the enameled pots. I bought my pot to make bread so I'm okay with using it that way and it's done well. I've used my Tramontina pot for 5+ years at these temperatures and it's still going strong with no flaking of the enamel at all, even though the manufacturer says 400 degrees is the max.
You have to do what you feel okay with, for sure, but these temperatures were tested in the Cook's Illustrated kitchens with multiple enameled pots, including the inexpensive one I purchased, so I feel okay with it.
But if you don't have a dutch oven, you can still bake this bread!
You can use a regular cast iron dutch oven. Or try using a baking stone with a pan of water in the oven (though be careful- the steam from the water broke my stone when I tried this, but if the water was on the top rack, it may have worked better).
I've also used a regular cookie sheet and sprayed some water on the loaf before going in the oven. Or add a roasting pan lid over the bread for the first 15 minutes. Try different methods and see which you like best.
Getting Ready to Bake Your Artisan Bread
- About 1-1/2 hours before you want to serve the bread, take the bowl out of the refrigerator, pull the plastic off (the dough will be sticky) and dust the top with flour and start preheating the enameled Dutch oven.
- Pull the amount of dough you need, cutting with a serrated knife. You can choose to make four smaller loaves or two medium-large sizes. I find it easiest to make two loaves, so I always just cut it in half.
- Round it in your floured hands until it is a somewhat smooth ball, not handling it too much so you don't loose the air in the dough that gives the bread it's great texture.
- Place the dough ball on a cookie sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper and dust the top with flour. The parchment is crucial to making this easy, since you will use it to transfer the dough to the hot enamel pot (or to a baking stone, etc.). TIP: the parchment can be reused 2 to 3 times before it starts falling apart, too.
- Place dutch oven in a cold oven and heat to 450 degrees while dough sits.
Bake Your Artisan Bread
- When the thirty minutes is up, take a sharp, serrated knife and slash the top in any pattern you choose- just make sure to slash a good 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch deep (I use to barely cut into the top and then the dough would explode out the bottom making the dough look weird and misshapen).
- Transfer dough to hot dutch oven. TIP: to transfer the dough to the hot pot, remove the lid of the hot dutch oven and using two opposite corners of the parchment, transfer the dough to the pot. Don't worry so much if the dough loses its shape - it will rise and look fine. Replace the lid, close the oven, and set the timer for 15 minutes for the smaller loaves, 17 minutes for the larger loaf.
- After the timer goes off, remove the lid and set the timer for the same amount of time as the first (if using a stone or cookie sheet, just set the timer for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan if you need to in your oven for even browning).
- Take the loaf out when it is nicely browned - don't be afraid to put it back in the oven until it looks browned. Sometimes I've found it may need up to another 5 minutes, but check the bottom, since it may burn. TIP: if your bread bottom is browning more than you'd like, add a cookie sheet on a lower rack below the bread.
Remove the loaf immediately to a wire rack - I just dump the loaf from the dutch oven onto the rack (because the pot is HOT and heavy!), then turn it over.
You'll want to wait at least a half hour before cutting it, preferably an hour, otherwise it will gum the knife (if you can't wait, however, here's a trick to keep your slices looking nice).
I also love the serrated bread knife from Rada pictured above - it's the best I've ever used!
Do yourself a favor and make this easy bread recipe as soon as you can - and prepare for all the raves!
Easy Artisan Bread Recipe
- 3 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 2½ teaspoon salt
- 3½ cups whole wheat flour* whole wheat white flour works great
- 3 cups unbleached flour*
- Put the yeast and salt in a bowl and add the water.
- Add all the flour and mix well.
- Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (not airtight). Let set at room temperature for about 1½ hours.
- Put in the refrigerator for up to a week or week-and-a-half. (Or bake right away - cut off what you need, shape, and let sit while pot heats).
- When ready to bake, place an enameled dutch oven, with lid, in a 450 degree oven.
- Dust the dough with flour, grab a quarter or half (depending on the size loaf you want) and cut off piece with a serrated knife. Using well-floured hands, shape gently into a ball and place on a piece of parchment paper resting on a cookie sheet (or in a small round skillet to help shape). Dust the top with more flour.
- Let sit on the counter 30 minutes. Then slash the top of the loaf with a serrated knife.
- Transfer the loaf to the hot dutch oven using the edges of the parchment, replace the lid, and cook for 15 to 17 minutes.
- Remove lid and continue to cook for another 15 to 17 minutes, or until loaf is a golden brown.
- Remove to a cooling rack for 30 to 60 minutes before cutting.
Recipe adapted from Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day by J. Hertzberg and Z. Francois and a Cook's Illustrated story (no link available) on no-knead bread.
Other easy bread recipes you may like:
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