One of my favorite restaurants in Portland is Ken's Artisan Pizza. Admittedly, when I first went here many years ago, I was underwhelmed. I thought it was just another restaurant riding the fancy, overpriced pizza trend, with nothing really to distinguish it from all the other restaurants. It wasn't until I actually tried other places that I realized Ken's Artisan Pizza really was the best of them all. I've never had pizza crust that good before — smokey and crunchy on the outside, yet chewy on the inside with a strong yeast flavor and air bubbles. Amazing ingredients and toppings.
A few months ago, I headed to the restaurant with my friend. Then, she did something that astonished me: she asked for bread and olive oil. I was miffed. That wasn't on their menu! That was when she let me in on the secret — bread from their bakery across town was available at their pizza restaurant by request. For free. I was ecstatic. I'd heard so many good things about their bakery, but had never actually been there myself. It was apparently the best in town, chosen as the bread served by many fancy restaurants in town. So when the waiter set the bread and olive oil at the table, I was practically leaping out of my seat.
The bread did not disappoint. It had a beautiful, dark golden crust that crackled with every bite. The inside of the bread was soft and made pillowy by the giant air bubbles. Overall, the bread had a strong yeast flavor and really tasted like fresh-baked bread. It was honestly the best bread I'd ever had, almost outshining the pizza.
So I was more than excited when Ken Forkish (the Ken behind Ken's Artisan Bakery and Ken's Artisan Pizza) released his cookbook Flour Water Salt Yeast a few months later. I chose one of the easier recipes in the book to start out with. A simple white bread, this recipe requires you to let the dough ferment overnight to really bring out the strong yeast flavor that's the signature of Ken's breads. Even though I didn't have half the proper equipment the book called for (proofing baskets, the right sized Dutch oven to bake the bread in), the bread still came out wonderfully with a golden brown crust and giant air bubbles in the pillowy insides:
Pretty impressive, right?
If you're intimidated by bread baking, you should honestly give Ken's book a try. Flour Water Salt Yeast is a dream. I'm no bread baker myself — I'm intimidated, impatient, and can't improvise the way you're supposed to when you're making bread. But Ken's book is really comprehensive — with step-by-step pictures, it really guided me through what can be a somewhat complicated process of baking bread. The book even has pictures of what the dough's supposed to look like at different stages! Amazing. It's exactly the kind of book that will give me (or you!) the confidence to start baking more bread.
Can't wait to try another recipe!
Overnight Artisan Bread at Home
(Adapted from Flour Water Salt Yeast)
(Adapted from Flour Water Salt Yeast)
- 12-quart round tub or bowl
- plastic wrap (like Saran)
- dough scraper
- proofing basket (you can get away with not using one of these like I did, but your loaves won't be as pretty)
- 2 flour sack towels (or, non-terrycloth cotton fabrics work, like a old, clean t-shirt or so)
- 2 four-quart Dutch oven (1 Dutch oven works too, see recipe for instructions)
- 2 oven mitts
For the Overnight Artisan Bread:
(makes 2 loaves, each about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 7 3/4 cups (1000 g.) white flour
- 3 1/3 cups (780 g.) water, between 90 (F) to 95 (F)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- scant 1/4 teaspoon instant dried yeast
For the Overnight Artisan Bread:
- Combine 7 3/4 cups (1000 g.) of flour with the 3 1/3 cups (780 g.) warm water in a 12-quart round tub or similar-container. Mix by hand until just incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
- In a small ramekin, combine 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fine sea salt with a scant 1/4 teaspoon instant dried yeast. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the flour and water dough (from the first step) and mix by hand, wetting your working hand before turning so the dough doesn't stick to you (it's fine to rewet your hand three or four times before you mix). Reach underneath dough and grab about one-quarter of it. Gently stretch this section of dough and fold it over the top to the other side of the dough. Repeat three more times with the remaining dough, until the salt and yeast are fully enclosed.
- Once all of the dough has been folded over itself, create a pincerlike grip with your thumb and forefinger and squeeze big chunks of dough, tightening your grip to cut through the dough. Make five or six cuts across the entire mass of dough, before folding the dough over itself again a few more times. Repeat, alternately cutting and golding until all of the ingredients are fully integrated and the dough has some tension in it. Let the dough rest for a few minutes, then fold for another 30 seconds or until the dough tightens up. The target dough temperature at the end of this mix is 77 (F) to 78 (F). Cover the tub with plastic wrap and let the dough rise.
- After an hour and a half, you need to "fold" the dough a few times. To fold the dough, reach underneath the dough and grab about one-quarter of it (similar to what you did in the second step of this recipe ). Gently stretch this section of dough and fold it over the top to the other side of the dough. Repeat four or five times, working around the dough until it has tightened into a ball. Grab the entire ball and invert it so the seam side (the side where all the folds have come together) faces down on the bowl. Once the dough relaxes a bit and flattens to the bottom of the tub, repeat the process. After each fold, the dough develops more structure and will take longer than before to completely relax. Repeat one more time for a total of 3 folds.
- After the last fold, cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise overnight at room temperature. After 12 to 14 hours, it's ready to be divided.
- When the dough has risen overnight, prepare a workspace about 2 feet wide by sprinkling a moderate amount of flour over the surface. Flour your hands and sprinkle a bit of flour around the edges of the tub filled with dough. Tip the tub slightly and gently work your floured hand beneath the dough to loosen it from the bottom of the tub. Gently ease the dough onto your workspace without pulling or tearing it.
- With floured hands, pick up the dough and ease it back down onto the work surface in a somewhat even shape. Dust the area in the middle with flour, and use a dough scraper to divide the dough into 2-equal sized pieces.
- Dust 2 proofing baskets with flour and shape each piece of dough into a medium tight ball by using the same method you used to fold the dough: that is, stretch and fold one-quarter of the dough up to the opposite side of the dough, only pulling each segment to its maximum stretch. Repeat, working your ay around the dough until it forms into a ball. Place each seam side down in its proofing basket and cover with a flour sack (if you don't have a proofing basket, simply shape the dough into balls and cover with a flour sack). Let the loaves proof at room temperature for about an hour and a half, or until the loaves are fully proofed. To test that the dough has been fully proofed, poke each loaf with a flour finger, making an indentation about a 1/2-inch deep. If it springs back immediately, the loaf needs more proofing. If the indentation springs back slowly and incompletely, the loaf is fully proofed and ready to bake. The warmer your kitchen is, the faster the loaves will proof.
- As the loaves are proofing, put 2 Dutch ovens with their lids on in the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 475 (F). If you only have 1 Dutch oven, put the second loaf in the fridge for about 20 minutes before baking and bake the loaf after you've finished baking the first one.
- When the loaves have finished proofing, use two oven mitts to remove the preheated Dutch ovens from the oven. Remove the lid and carefully place the loaves in the hot Dutch oven, with the seam side (that is, the top of the loaf will be the side that was facing down while it was rising) up. Use oven mitts to cover the Dutch oven with its lid, and place the covered Dutch oven in the oven.
- Bake for 30 minutes, then carefully remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until medium dark brown all over the loaf. Once the loaves are dark brown, remove the Dutch oven and carefully tilt to turn the loaf out. Let cool on a cooling rack and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.