You know you are a true baker when you can master rustic artisan bread

I know, I know. Why not just put flour and water in the bread machine and turn it on? I'll tell you why! There is no substitute for authentic hand-made artisan bread with its crusty, chewy texture and heavenly flavor. Yes, I do own a bread machine, and no, it can't produce anything close. If you want to use one for kneading, go ahead! They are great for that.

I have also seen and tried the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. It's certainly better than bagged bread off the grocery store shelf, and it's great to pull it out of the fridge whenever you want to bake up a quick loaf. My problem with it is that the flavor is somewhat flat. Maybe because the yeast doesn't ferment enough or maybe a little whole wheat (1/2 cup to the entire recipe) might help.

Anyhow, I went to the library in search of the most delicious artisan bread recipe I could find. After seeing the cover and reading a few bits and pieces of the insides, I checked out only one book - The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. She has perfected the process of baking incredible bread. Here is my adaptation of her artisan bread that has won me over. You may find some of the instructions a little brief. This is because I shrunk the actual recipe into small bits that are easy for me to follow without a lot of fuss. The directions assume a little bit of an understanding of baking terms. Also, the recipe also requires that you let the yeast ferment (overnight is best), so be prepared.

The night before, make Sponge in Kitchenaid Mixer:

1 cup bread flour
¼ cup wheat flour
⅜ tsp rapid rise yeast
1 ¼ tsp honey
1 ⅓ cups water

Whisk for 2 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap. Meanwhile, mix flour mixture in separate bowl:

1 ¾ cups bread flour
½ tsp rapid rise yeast

With spoon, gently scoop flour mixture onto top of sponge, covering entire surface. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 1 to 24 hours at room temperature.

With dough hook, mix for 1 minute on #2, scraping down sides of bowl. Dough will be rough. Cover and rest for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with 1 ½ tsp salt, then knead on #4 for 7 minutes. Place into greased bowl and spray with oil. Rise for 1 hour at room temperature.

Do one business envelope fold then return dough to re-greased bowl, oil top and cover with plastic wrap. Rise again for 1 hour at room temperature.

Shape on silpat-lined baking sheet into freeform oblong loaf. Rise for 1 hour at room temperature.

Place a cast-iron pan onto lower rack of oven and place upside-down baking sheet on middle rack. Preheat oven to 475°.

Slash top of loaf. Working quickly, place ½ cup ice into cast-iron pan, then place baking sheet with loaf on top of preheated baking sheet in oven, then close oven door. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 425°. Bake for 20 minutes longer.

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