Bake your own artisan bread with minimum effort. This recipe is for a small household and will make 2-3 loaves of bread using a basic dough which can be kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Double the quantities if you want to make more loaves of artisan bread during that period
Mix the flour and salt together with the yeast in a large plastic tub or bowl
Using a large fork, stir in the water until you have a sticky mixture
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours or up to 12 hours (make sure you use a jug which is at least 3 x the size of the dough)
If you intend using the dough in two batches, after 2-3 hours put the mixture into the fridge and leave for at least another 12 hours
Flour a work surface and pull off half of the dough. dust with more flour and gently fold and form the dough into a 'boule' shape
Sprinkle with a little more flour
Put a large square of baking paper on a clean tea towel and coat generously with polenta or cornmeal. Put the boule in the centre of the towel. Sprinkle with a little more polenta or cornmeal on top of the boule. Fold the top of the paper and the material over so you have a loosely wrapped parcel and leave to prove for a further 2 hours
30 minutes before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 220C with whatever you are planning to use to bake your bread. I am working with a medium size cast iron casserole or Dutch oven.
When the dough has proved for at least 2 hours take the casserole from the oven and either turn the 'boule' into it or simply pick up the baking paper carefully and drop it in. Shake the pot gently to distribute the dough and score the top with a serrated bread knife
Cover the pot and bake in the oven for 20 minutes
After 20-25 minutes (depending on the size of the loaf) take the lid off and continue to bake for a further 10-15 minutes until the loaf is brown and the crust is crispy
Turn out onto a wire rack and cool for at least 20 minutes before attempting to slice!