Artisan Hearth Bread

With its crispy crust and soft, somewhat chewy interior, this loaf of bread is what many of us seek out when we're going to the bakery. Using some simple tools — namely a brotform and baking stone — and a couple of our favorite bakery tricks, you can create your own artisan loaf in your home kitchen.
Prep
20 mins
Bake
30 to 35 mins
Total
16 hrs 45 mins
Yield
1 boule
Artisan Hearth Bread

Instructions

  1. To make the starter: Weigh the flour, or measure it by gently spooning it into a measuring cup and sweeping off the excess. Combine the flour, water, and yeast. Cover the container and allow to rest for 12 to 16 hours at room temperature. It should be doubled in size, and filled with large bubbles.
  2. To make the dough: Add the water to the starter. Weigh the flour, or measure it by gently spooning it into a measuring cup and sweeping off the excess. Add the flour, mix to combine, cover the bowl, and allow the mixture to rest for 20 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid and the gluten to start its development.
  3. Add the yeast and salt, and knead the dough until it's fairly smooth, about 5 to 7 minutes by hand or 3 to 4 minutes using a stand mixer set at medium-low speed.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours. Turn the dough every 30 minutes during the rising time by gently folding all four sides into the middle, and turning the dough over.
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a ball (boule).
  6. Place the boule smooth side down in a flour-dusted or lined brotform or bowl. Loosely cover the boule and allow it to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours; it should be puffy but not doubled.
  7. About 30 minutes before the boule is finished rising, preheat the oven to 425°F and place a baking stone on the center rack.
  8. Turn the boule, smooth side up, very gently onto a baker's peel dusted with semolina or cornmeal, or onto a piece of parchment, and transfer it to the hot stone. The dough should slip out gracefully, without deflating. If it does happen to deflate a lot (a small settling is OK), simply form it into a smooth ball, put it back in the brotform or bowl, and let it rise again (only this time not quite as high).
  9. Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, until it's deep golden brown and crusty, spraying water into the oven with a spray bottle three times during the first 10 minutes of baking.
  10. Remove the loaf from the oven, transfer it to a rack, and allow it to cool completely.
  11. Store leftover bread wrapped in plastic for 2 to 3 days at room temperature; or in the freezer for up to 3 months.