Artisan Free-Form Loaf (Boule)

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes’ technique from other bread bakers on Twitter and I couldn’t wait to try it for myself.  I decided to start with the master artisan free-form loaf. So far this method lives up to its name. Basically, you make the master dough, let it rise for a couple of hours, then store it in the refrigerator for up to 14 days. When you want to bake bread, just take out the amount of dough needed for a particular recipe, shape it, let it rise and bake it. How easy is that? There are a couple of other steps but you get the gist. ABin5-master-loaf09

Edited 8/4/2013: I made this loaf again and adapted the ingredients a little. Basically, I cut the formula in third, used less water and yeast and a little more flour.  I also changed the order of the ingredients. I prefer to mix the dry ingredients first, then add in the wet ingredients.  However, if you are using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, add it to the lukewarm water and then mix it with the flour and salt. The original version makes four 1-pound loaves.  If you want to make that version, refer to the list of ingredients here. To make one 1 1/2-pound round freeform loaf, use the following formula.  The directions are basically the same for both versions, but you use all of the dough in my version instead of cutting off part of it and putting the rest back in the refrigerator.

Artisan Free Form Loaf (Boule)

Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois Makes: One 1 1/2-pound Round Boule

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups (315 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 – 1 1/4 cups (237 -281.25 grams) lukewarm water *
  • Cornmeal for dusting pizza peel or parchment paper

* Depending on the type of flour used, it could absorb more or less water.

Directions:

First Step: Mixing and Storing the Dough Measure the flour (with dry-ingredient measuring cups), using the scoop and sweep method. Basically, you just scoop up the flour, then sweep off the top with a knife. Mix together the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the lukewarm water (about 100 degrees F.)  Use a wooden spoon or a Danish dough whisk to thoroughly mix the ingredients. I mixed the dough with a wooden spoon, and it worked just fine. However, if the dough becomes to stiff to handle with the spoon, you can reach into your mixing bowl with wet hands and finish mixing the dough, but there’s no need to knead it. Do this until everything is moist and you have a dough that is wet and loose. I mixed everything right in the container which makes it really easy to clean up.

Cover the container with a lid that is not airtight. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature for approximately 2 hours or until it begins to collapse. It may take longer depending on the temperature of the room and the temperature of the water used. You can use a portion of the dough at any time after the rising period. However, it is recommended that you refrigerate the dough overnight or at least 3 hours before shaping a loaf because fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and easier to work with that dough at room temperature.

I let the dough rest on the counter for a couple of hours, then placed it in the refrigerator until the next day when I was ready to bake.

Baking Day: 1st Try

Shaping the Dough First, you prepare a pizza peel (or the back of a baking sheet) by sprinkling it with cornmeal to prevent your loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven. At this point, I thought to myself, “I should use parchment paper to make sure the dough doesn’t stick.” However, I decided to do it the way the recipe suggested so I didn’t use parchment paper. That was my first mistake. You’ll see why in a minute. Then, you sprinkle the refrigerated dough with flour and pull up and cut off a grapefruit-sized piece. Hold the dough in your hands and sprinkle with more flour so it doesn’t stick to your hands. Stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating it as you go. When it’s correctly shaped, the ball will be smooth and cohesive. This shouldn’t take very long.

Place the ball on the pizza peel and allow the loaf to rise for about 40 minutes. No covering is necessary.

Baking the Boule Twenty minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty pan for holding water on the shelf underneath the baking stone. This is the risen Boule Dust the top of the loaf and make a 1/4-inch slash using a serrated knife. The book offers a few different patterns to choose from.  I chose the scallop pattern. Now, this was the tricky part. The instructions say to give a quick forward jerking motion of the wrist, and slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the preheated baking stone. Well, all I can say is that I should’ve gone with my first thought of using parchment paper because this part didn’t work too well. The dough just stuck to the pizza peel. Phooey!

Instead of trying to bake a blob and not be happy with it, I decided to just start over again. I put the dough back in the refrigerator to try again the next night. That’s the good thing about this method. You can always put the dough back in the refrigerator and try it another day.

Baking Day: 2nd Try

Okay. Let’s try this again… Sprinkle a little flour over the top of the dough and pull off a grapefruit-size ball. Then tightly shape the ball by stretching the surface around to the bottom on all sides. I placed it on the parchment this time to make sure it would come off in the shape I want it to and not stick to the peel.

Here is the shaped boule doubled in size. It held it’s shape pretty well during the proofing.

Now we’ll make the slashes. The slashes worked better this time.

It’s ready to bake!

 

Just slide the shaped and scored loaf (on the parchment paper) onto the preheated baking stone.  Then quickly pour hot water into your steam pan.  Close the oven door immediately to trap the steam. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned and firm to the touch. Remove the loaf to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.

ABin5-master-loaf08

Then slice and enjoy!  Look at those holes. I’m very pleased with this version. It tastes so good!  It’s great warm with butter. You can also make crostini with it.

ABin5-master-loaf_005

 

Happy Baking!

Cathy

Cathy

Cathy

Owner/Blogger at Bread Experience
Hello, I’m Cathy, the face behind the Bread Experience. I'm a project manager by profession. My job can be very stressful at times and I've found that baking bread is a wonderful stress reliever.

I especially enjoy baking bread on the weekends and allowing the dough to slow ferment to bring out the flavor and nutritional properties of the bread.

Over the years, I've become enamored with grains.So you'll find me experimenting using different types of heritage and ancients grains.Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't, but it's all part of the experience.I invite you to join me on this bread-baking journey.
Cathy

Comments

  1. says

    You make it look so easy~ looks like a very forgiving dough that allows you to have a do-over! I do agree, allowing your dough to ferment in the fridge does give it a lot of flavor…

  2. says

    Gotten both sour dough and package yeast breads to the point where they are edible, and do not survive a small crowd. Here is my total puzzlement.

    something that happens, every time, no matter how good or bad, what source of yeast is that the dough raises in the bowl, raises the first time after kneading, but…
    …NEVER after the “punch down” of the first rising. I am not getting that second rising, even after 18 hours. AND I never get the expected rise in the oven.

    My bread tastes better than my saintly mother’s, but hers always rose to fill the stone or pan and overflowed a little.

    • says

      I was having this same problem until I started adding vital wheat gluten to the recipe. About 1T per cup of flour. I never had to use it when I lived in So. Calif. but in Florida, Mexico and now No. Calif. I just get a brick without it. I would suggest you give it a try.

  3. says

    Hi Terry,

    Thanks for visiting. Working with the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes dough is different from regular doughs. I’ve had to put several back in the refrigerator in order to get them to work right.

    It’s also possible to overproof the dough on the first rise. I’ve done that as well. I find that when that happens, I don’t get a good rise after it’s been shaped. That’s what happened with this particular bread so rather than baking a flat loaf, I put the dough back in the refrigerator until the next day when the dough and I were less stressed.

  4. Anonymous says

    I think Terry’s problem is the “punch down” as well as the “kneading”. Artisan bread relies on the delicate air pockets that develop in the dough to create texture, and should be handled gently. The technique designed to shape the ball is specifically to avoid over handling. Try again and good luck!

  5. Jessica says

    Hello! I really like your blog!!

    I am new to bread-making but this page encourages me to do so. I really want to have a try!

    However, I am not living in the U.S. so I wonder if i can just use any yeast for the bread or I have to use the granulated yeast?? And may I use whole grain flour or any flour, instead of the unbleached all-purposed flour for the bread? Will the texture be different?

    This bread looks soooooo tasty and easy to make and I really want to have a good start.

    Thank you very much!

  6. says

    Hi Jessica, yes you can use any yeast for this recipe. You can use whole grain flour, but the texture will be different. It won’t rise as much unless you use at least some all-purpose flour (if it’s available) and/or some vital wheat gluten.

    You might want to try a different recipe that utilizes the Artisan Bread in Five method but includes whole wheat and all-purpose flour. It can be made in a loaf pan or freeform. Here is the link http://breadmakingblog.breadexperience.com/2010/01/hearty-whole-wheat-sandwich-loaf.html

    • Jessica says

      Hello Cathy,

      Thanks a lot for your reply!
      I have tried your recipe and it worked! It was my first bread and it tasted sooo good :) that I can’t believe it. Neither did my husband believe that I had made it successfully.

      thanks again!

      Jessica

  7. sarahb says

    thank you SO much for this amazing recipe! I bake all of our bread, and have been searching for a loaf with a perfectly chewy crust & flavorful, springy crumb. Bravo — this is my new go-to bread!!!

  8. says

    Hi Cathy,
    Just wanted to thank you for posting this recipe. I have been baking bread for a few years now but am by no means an expoertu and usually “cheat” and use a bread machine. I have been in search of the perfect baguette recipe for a while now. I decided to try this recipe for Thanksgiving since I didn’t have to make the dough the day of (made it Tuesday night). I am always nervous about trying new recipes without testing them first, this time I was not disappointed! Everyone raved about it and both loaves were eaten before the second course! I have already baked a second batch and just finished making more dough for a luncheon sunday at church. This is definitely going to be my “go to” recipe. Thanks again!
    Mekendry

  9. Alison Jones says

    Cathy,
    Thanks so much for posting the step-by-step instructions, and even your “mini-fail.” So helpful! I just baked my first loaf and it smells and looks delicious, but the bottom is under-done. The water pan was empty after baking; could that be it?
    Alison

  10. says

    Hello Alison,

    Thanks for visiting the Bread Experience. Did you bake the loaf directly on a baking stone? If you used parchment paper, which I usually do, then you probably need to remove it partway during the baking cycle to make sure the loaf gets baked through. Also, the loaf should sound hollow on the bottom when it’s done.

    Happy Baking!
    Cathy

  11. says

    Hello, It’s listed under Baking the Boule. About 20 – 30 minutes before you plan to bake the bread, preheat the oven (and the baking stone) to 450 degrees.

    Happy Baking!
    Cathy

  12. says

    Hi, thanks for the recipe. I’ve made this twice, once using 3/4 ap flour and 1/4 white whole wheat and once using all ap flour. Both times, I ended up with a much denser loaf than the one pictured. It was delicious, but not the texture I was looking for. What am I doing wrong?

    • says

      Hi Sarah,

      A couple of things come to mind as possible issues. 1) Too much flour was incorporated and it changed the hydration level of the dough. and/or, 2) the dough was handled too much causing it to degas (deflate).

      Keep in mind that I had to make this bread several times before I got the beautiful holes pictured in the photo. Good bread is worth the effort.

      Happy Baking!
      Cathy

  13. Anonymous says

    Hi! Thanks for the cool recipe. My dough came out exactly like your blob except all my relatives were waiting to have home made artisan bread that I had been bragging about all day long with dinner. The pressure was on.

    I threw caution to the wind and threw it in anyway and it somehow magicly transformed into a full beautiful loaf in the oven!

    • says

      Hello Tom,

      10 percent protein is the amount recommended for this bread, but you can use strong white flour. It will give the bread more chew. You might need to decrease the amount of flour used by a couple of tablespoons.

      Happy Baking!
      Cathy

  14. says

    Hi Cathy – This is the first time I’ve ran across your blog, but your bread looks great! I’m excited to try it out.

    My question is regarding the water for steam during the baking process. I’ve tried this once with a bread before, and the crust didn’t really get crunchy and the bread was too moist (almost gooey). I don’t know if that was because the recipe I followed didn’t call for enough flour (the dough was rather gooey to the point I had to keep it in a bread pan to keep it in tack – definitely not what I was used to working with dough-wise), or if I had added too much water in the steam pan (I had probably a 9X13 inch pan in there and filled the water to the point where it covered the bottom of the pan). It cooked for over an hour (I think the temp it called for was around 350, which could have been too cool in the long run).

    I guess my question is approximately how much water should you be adding to your steam pan so that it adds enough moisture to your bread without getting soggy.

    Thanks so much, and I look forward to reading more on your blog!

    • says

      Hi Jennifer, thanks for visiting. I’m not sure what type of bread you tried before, but it sounds like the temperature of the oven was too low. Utilizing steam helps to create a crusty crumb. Freeform artisan loaves are best baked on a preheated baking stone at 450 degrees F. You can turn it down to 425 degrees once you put the bread in the oven and pour the water in the steam pan.

      As far as the water for the steam, you only need a cup of hot water in a steam pan underneath the baking stone. Or, what I’ve been doing recently is using 3 ice cubes in a cast iron skillet (on the top rack of the oven) with the baking stone on the lowest rack in the oven. I use a small old cast iron skillet that I don’t use for anything else.

      Also, keep in mind that a lot of artisan breads have wet doughs. They shouldn’t be gooey (depending on the hydration level) but they might be a bit sticky. A wet dough is necessary to achieve the holes/texture on the inside. The longer fermentation time and folding the dough helps develop the gluten structure. Hope this helps.

      Happy Baking,
      Cathy

  15. says

    So I want to make the loaf of bread in the picture in the worst way. I have to say up front that while I love cooking, I don’t bake much so my problem may well be inexperience.

    I’m on my 3rd try now and the first two had a nice crust but came out way to dense (not nice big air holes like the picture) and even seemed a little doughy when eaten.

    I’m curious about your description of the dough being “wet and loose” after it’s mixed. I’ve measured my flour carefully being sure not to pack the measuring cups too tightly, and I’ve used the full cup and a quarter of water. All 3 times my dough has not been wet and loose at that point. I even liberally wet my hands 2 or 3 times and mixed like that, but I still wouldn’t call it wet and loose and I’m afraid to put anymore water in it.

    Should I cut out the 1/4 cup of flour as I’ve been tempted to do, or should I not be afraid to just keep adding water until it’s the proper consistency?

    Thanks,
    Marty

    • says

      Hello Marty!

      Did you ferment your dough in the refrigerator overnight? Also, is it cold and dry where you are? That will affect the hydration. I would say go ahead and add more water and only mix it long enough to incorporate the ingredients. When you shape the dough the next day, handle it carefully so you don’t degas it too much. It might not rise that much during proofing, but it should have good oven spring.

      Hope this helps.
      Cathy

    • says

      Wow. Thanks for the fast reply Cathy!

      I have been fermenting the dough in the refrigerator overnight. As a matter of fact I just put my batch for tomorrow in. I will go ahead and try it with a cup and a half of water and see what happens.

      The other question I had since you mentioned degasing the dough when I handle it the next day. The dough sticks to the side of my mixing bowl, so I’m not sure how to get it out without loosing some of that airy goodness. Do you try and kinda dump it out into your hand and then stretch what was the bottom of the dough, or do you pull it out and stretch the top of the dough?

      Thanks again for the recipe and the extra help!

      Marty

    • says

      I usually just ease the dough out as gently as I can onto a lightly floured surface. Then I bring the underside (the side that’s on the flour) into a ball. Hope that makes sense. Let me know how it turns out.

  16. says

    Absolutely love your recipe, looks and taste great. I have given 4different friends a plastic bucket with all ingredients except water, and shown them how to make your bread. They are all believers. The bread always taste great, still working on that crusty crust. I think storing it after in a ziplock bag isn’t best, wish I had the paper type bakeries use. Course it doesn’t last too long

    • says

      Sandi, I’m so glad you like this bread. I agree, in order to keep the crust crusty, it is better to use a paper bag. I sometimes use a grocery bag. Some home bakers just place their breads sliced-side down on a bread board.

  17. Anonymous says

    Hi I wanted to try out this recipe as it looks great, .but im having trouble shaping the dough. The dough was left lvernight and when I was ready to use it, it wasvery liquidy and hard to shape into a boule. And when I tried it seemed almost completely degassed and I seem to be using too much flour just for it to maintain shape. Anyideas?

    • says

      Hello, if you are baking in a hot kitchen, you might need to reduce the hydration of the dough. I reduced the amount of water to use from 1 to 1 /2 cups of water, but you may need to reduce the water further.

      Did you bake the loaf after shaping it and adding more flour? How did it turn out?

    • Anonymous says

      No I didnt bake it as ihad added too much flohr and became very dry may I ask what was the texture of your dough before shaping and how you shpe it into a boule as Im finding it quite difficult.

    • says

      The dough will be wet so you’ll need to dust it with flour before shaping.

      The authors of the BreadIn5 method have some videos on shaping the boule. You might find them helpful http://youtube.com/BreadIn5. Look for the one on “How to Make Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day”.

  18. Anonymous says

    A little bit confused. You mentioned that the dough should be refrigerated because it’s easier to form a loaf from refrigerated dough but you then said you take the dough out of the fridge and allow it to get to room temperature. Do you form the loaf after it gets to room temperature or as soon as it comes out of the fridge?

    • says

      Sorry for the confusion. Looks like I need to edit my edits.

      With this method, you form the loaf after removing the dough from the refrigerator. Then you let the loaf rest (proof) for about 40 minutes (or more if necessary) before baking. Hope this helps.

  19. Anonymous says

    I would like to bake about 8 boule’s for a Farmers Market sale. How would you recommend when I bake the loaves and/or how should I store or cover them? My alternative can only be to get up at 4:00 am to get all 8 loaves in and out of the oven. Plus I can only use a cookie tray or cake pans to bake them in????

    • says

      If you bake them on a baking sheet instead of a baking stone, they will not have the same crust. They will still be good, but they will not look the same as what is shown in this post because you won’t have the benefit of the high heat from the baking stone.

      Since you are only making 8 loaves, I recommend that you bake them on that day of the market.That way they are fresh. However, you could shape the loaves and place them in refrigerator overnight for the final rise. Just make sure the boules are shaped tightly and cover them with plastic wrap. Then bake them the next day.

      Since the loaves won’t have crusty crusts, you can probably just store them in plastic bread bags.

      Happy Baking!
      Cathy

  20. Anonymous says

    When you store your dough for up to 14 days… After so many days do you cover with plastic wrap?
    After about 4 days my dough had a very dry skin and what appeared to be mold forming on the top of it. Is it ok to simply take the top of it off and use the dough underneath?

    • says

      Hello, if you mean should you cover with plastic wrap instead of just the container lid, then yes I would, especially if it’s getting a dry skin. I’ve never kept it for 14 days, but I have left it in the refrigerator for 4 or 5 days without any problems.

  21. Marty says

    If I’m doing the math correctly I get your hydration at about 89%. The master 5 minute recipe is around 75%. This seems like a big difference. Is your dough really that wet? Thanks

    • says

      Hello Marty, thanks for checking the percentages. The grams for the water should be 237g – 281.25g for 1 – 1 1/4 cups which would make the hydration 75%- 89%. I’ll update the water amount to reflect this. Depending on the type of flour used, it could absorb more or less water. This was somewhat of a wet dough, but I found it easier to work with than the original.

    • Martyd says

      Thank you for the reply about hydration. I am going to give this a try. This my first time seeing your site and it looks pretty interesting.
      I see another Marty in the replies so I’ll go to Martyd

  22. jen says

    I followed the recipie EXACTLY snd the dough is so soupy. It bakes nicely but it’s a pile of wet goop. This is afteraving in the fridge for anywhere from 1 day to 10 days. What am I doing wrong? Do I need more flour? The first time it turned out good, but since I wanted to have lots of dough on hand (we love bread!) I followed the recipie from your link of the original which makes 5 1.5lb loaves. What am I doing wrong?

    • Cathy says

      Hi Jen,

      Are you saying that the adapted recipe on my site worked fine, but the original recipe on the Artisan Bread in Five web site (which makes more loaves) is the one you are having trouble with? If that is the case, I would suggest reducing the amount of yeast used and the amount of water. Add the water in gradually until it makes a workable dough. The dough should be wet, but not soupy. Since the dough will be fermenting in the refrigerator, you won’t need as much yeast. Also, you might want to reduce the time in the refrigerator. I think the fresher dough works better, but you may just have to play around to find the optimum time for you. Hope this helps.

      Cathy

  23. Penny says

    Can this bread, and the artisan recipes, be made with fresh milled soft wheat as the “all purpose” flour?
    Since I started grinding my own wheat berries, I have stopped buying “store bought” flours.
    Thanks!

    • Cathy Warner says

      Hi Penny, you can certainly use freshly-milled wheat, but for this loaf and other artisan loaves, you should use hard red wheat (winter or spring) and sift out some of the bran to make what’s called high-extraction flour – meaning it’s been sifted to extract some of the bran. Soft wheat works well for biscuits and other quick breads, but not breads that require more protein content to form the gluten structure. You can use whole wheat in breads without sifting it, but the loaves will be denser.

        • Cathy Warner says

          I probably wouldn’t use vital wheat gluten, but you might want to try it with and without to see how the bread turns out. Then determine which one you like better.

  24. vicky says

    I want to make the bread you describe above, although it does not sound that easy. Firstly, do I need a pizza stone, I do not have one, will it work just on an oven tray?

    • Cathy Warner says

      Hi Vicky, the bread is actually pretty easy. Most of the time the dough is fermenting in the refrigerator. It will work if you bake it on a baking sheet; it just won’t have the same type of crispy crust on the outside.

    • Cathy Warner says

      A pizza peel is a wooden paddle with a long handle that is used to transfer pizza or bread to the preheated baking stone in the oven. If you are using a baking sheet, you won’t need a pizza peel. If you have a rimless baking sheet, that will work better, but a rimmed baking sheet will be okay. After removing the dough from the refrigerator, sprinkle the baking sheet with cornmeal or line it with parchment paper; shape the dough into a tight round ball and let the boule rise on the baking sheet until it’s ready to bake. Score the loaf, then slide the baking sheet with the loaf on it into the preheated oven.

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