Artisan bread flavor without the work!

A frequently asked question is…”How do I get that sour characteristic of artisan bread without having to use a starter, which is way too high maintenance?”

The answer is easy with our bread method, just wait. I mean mix up your dough, let it rise, use some if you need to immediately and then let the rest of the batch sit in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Don’t feed it, just wait. After the 2nd day you will notice that the flavor is more complex and is starting to take on the characteristics in artisan bread that you crave: sourdough flavor, larger air holes, nice “custard” crumb and crisp tin crust. As it ages it improves, like all of us! The way I maintain that flavor in the next batch is to leave a piece from an “old” dough in the bucket and just dump the ingredients for a fresh batch right on top.

This however should be avoided with the doughs that use egg! I find that even the brioche dough is nicer after a few days, but it has limits and can’t last more than 5 days without being frozen.

When you first start baking bread with our method it is hard to wait, it is too tempting to bake fresh bread every day, but the results of your patience will please you!

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62 thoughts on “Artisan bread flavor without the work!

  1. I just bought your book and I am so excited to use it. Can I use King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour in your master recipe or do I need to use it with some regular white flour? If I do, what would be the ratio? Thank you so much and great luck with the book.

  2. I too made my first loaves from a newspaper review and immediately ordered the book! Love it! I’ve moved up to parbaking as a means of sharing my success (and really good bread) but wonder what your recommended method of thawing is. Any idea if it’s better to thaw the bread loose in a plastic bag, wrapped tightly in plastic, on the counter, in the fridge? What combination is best?

  3. Hi,
    Do you have any idea when your book will be available again? I tried all my “sources” to no avail…

  4. Hi Judy,
    We are very sorry that you are having a difficult time finding the book. It is now in its 3rd printing and we have word from the publisher that there should be more on the book shelves in a week or so. If you live in Minneapolis/St Paul you can try Common Good Books. They had some as of yesterday but I’d call first. Thanks!

    Common Good Books
    165 Western Ave N
    Suite 14
    St. Paul, MN 55102
    Tel: 651-225-8989

  5. HI,
    I’m having a problem with vertical oven spring. I’ve made 2 boule’s now (both delicious) but they are having dramatic vertical oven spring. What’s going on?

  6. Hi Teresa,

    There are two things that come to mind for you to try. This vertical oven spring can happen if the dough doesn’t rise enough before putting it in the oven. If your loaf is bigger than 1 pound (which is about the size of a grapefruit) you will need to let it rise longer. The dough should not be cold to the touch when it goes in the oven.

    If that is not the issue than try slashing the top of the dough deeper. When I tested the recipe and didn’t slash the dough 1/4″ deep it had these odd protrusions.
    Let me know if this helps. If not, we will try something else.

    Thanks, Zoe

  7. Thank you for answering my question on weighing the flour
    I tried scooping the flour and
    the bread came out great.
    I now have another question,
    Instead of rolling out the dough and adding caraway or any other seeds,and rolling it
    up, can I add the seeds directly to the liquid, before
    adding the flour, or should I
    add the seeds to the flour and
    incorporate them from the start?

  8. Jessie: It makes no difference when you add the seeds, but I usually throw them right in the liquid. Whatever’s easiest. Jeff

  9. I gave the master recipe a shot and am now on loaf 3 – I’m sold on the great bread that resulted from minimal effort. The one problem I’ve had is with the seemingly simple step of shifting the bread onto the pizza stone. I’ve tried letting it warm on two different cutting boards (sprinkled liberally with corn meal) but the wet dough always seems to stick to the board and end up being somewhat deformed by the time I get it off and onto the stone.

    Any tips to help reduce that problem? Perhaps purchasing an actual pizza peel would work better than the other wooden cutting boards I have used.

    If I can get past this last problem, I can’t wait to get the book and try some of the other recipes. As a novice baker with limited time, this approach has given me the option I never though I’d have – tasty home-baked bread anytime I want it. Thanks.

  10. Hi Tim,

    thanks for trying the recipe. It is a very wet dough so it can pose a challenge getting it to slide off of your cutting board and nicely onto the pizza stone. If the dough is sticking to the peel or cutting board I will nudge the dough a bit and sprinkle additional cornmeal under it right before slashing and putting it in the oven. Especially if you are letting it sit for extended times the wet dough will absorb some of the cornmeal and may need some added to get it off the peel.

    Some people have said that the metal pizza peels allow the dough to slide better. If you are going to invest in a peel you may want to consider metal?

    I hope this helps and inspires you to try more of the recipes! Thanks, Zoe

  11. Tim – I let my dough raise on a piece of parchment on top of the pizza peel and then slide the parchment with the dough right onto the baking stone and bake. Works like a charm.

    A question for Zoe or Jeff – I have made the basic dough 3 times now and still am not getting the holes that are in your pictures that are posted here and in your book. Any suggestions? Also, in the book it says to store dough in tupperware or something else that is not air tight. Isn’t tupperware air tight? Or are you leaving the lid ajar? Thanks

  12. Hi Darla: Yep, parchment works beautifully, just as you describe, so thanks for the tip. And thanks for making the bread!

    Sounds like you are getting a “tight” crumb structure (small holes, relatively dense), and what you’d like is “open” crumb structure (larger holes, less dense). In our approach, most users have found that they get open structure when they let the dough age for a longer period of time. Have you tried staggering your batches so you can try some older stuff? As the yeast continue to do their thing, they produce by-products of fermentation that slightly break down gluten, allowing larger holes to form.

    But there are other things to consider. Sometimes experienced bakers over-handle our dough, and this knocks the air out of it and makes for a denser result. We’ve had people “punching down” our dough, and doing a little kneading for good measure just before shaping. You really shouldn’t do either of those or you’ll get a dense result with stored dough. For the shaping, do as little “gluten-cloaking” as you can. When we say 30 to 60 seconds, we mean it. I do mine in more like 10 or 15 seconds. See if that gives you bigger holes.

    Finally, you may find that with your flour, you need a little more water to achieve an open crumb structure, especially if you want to use dough early in the batch’s cycle.

    Generally, I leave the Tupperware slightly open on one side to allow gas to escape early in the fermentation, but you can close it by the second day or so. We just didn’t want people using sealed glass jars, which could theoretically explode. A really well-sealed Tupperware is airtight and could distort and finally “pop” if sealed early in the fermentation. I think my Tupperwares are old and don’t quite make a perfect seal.


  13. Thanks for the tips Jeff – The longest rise yet was 7 days – maybe I’m “shaping” for longer than I need to. I’m going to try another batch in the next couple of days. I’m going to try one of the whole grain recipes this time. Thanks for your help. Darla

  14. I am loving this bread. So easy, so delicious!! I have the book and I’ve changed what errors have been made accordingly. I do have a question re the salt. I have been using Penzeys Kosher Flake salt all along in my recipes. I noted that in only one recipe did you note Kosher salt to be used.
    Is it okay to use Kosher salt in other recipes too?

  15. Hi Linda,

    Yes, absolutely! It is the only salt that I use for baking our bread. Salt varies so much, as do peoples taste for it. Play with the amount and type that you like best.

    I’m so glad you are enjoying the book and all the bread!


  16. Hi,

    I’ve baked your bread several times now and love it. A few days ago I made a batch and now would like to integrate some additional ingredients, rosemary, asiago, etc. into the dough prior to baking. Is it ok to mix in these ingredients on the back end? Will I destroy the air/gas inside that makes for a nice crumb? How do you suggest that I get these ingredients into the bread at this point, if at all possible. Thanks in advance for your reply.

  17. Hi Rick,

    Yes, I mix stuff into the dough once it is made and stored all the time. You will knock the gas bubbles out of the dough by doing this so I recommend a longer rest time on the peel, up to double the time. This will allow some of that hole structure to reestablish itself and the bread will not be as dense. If you think to do it way ahead you can even throw the dough back into the bucket and let it rise again in the refrigerator for a few hours. Not entirely necessary but another way to reestablish the gas bubbles.

    Your bread sounds delicious, let me know how it comes out!

    Thanks, Zoe

  18. I tried your bread recipe from the newspaper reviews I have seen and have just now found a book store with the book in stock. So, I will be trying more variations. On the batches of the basic boule I have made so far I am finding that they are too salty to my taste. Can I cut down on the amount of salt without compromising anything?

  19. Hi Phyllis,

    Yes, you can cut the salt back to a level that is satisfying to you. We wrote the book with Kosher salt in mind. It is difficult to find a specific amount that works for everyone’s palate, so we encourage you to play around with it!

    Thanks, Zoe

  20. Hi, I discovered your method online last week. I made a batch of dough on Thursday and baked my first boule on Friday. It was absolutely delicious, with good oven spring, a good crust and a nice open texture. BUT .. the dough was very wet and hard to handle – it didn’t look anything like yours on the video clip. The boule spread a lot before I baked it and although it rose well in the oven, it didn’t get much above one and a half inches high. I’m in England and using strong white bread flour and dried active yeast which is described as being suitable for traditional hand baking.
    The remaining dough is bubbling away in the fridge and I shall bake another loaf tomorrow, but do you think I should do anything differently?
    Many thanks, Cathy

  21. Cathy: My family spent two blissful weeks in London and then Stow-on-the-Wold this past summer, baking pretty much every day (we’re addicted). Every flour we used worked beautifully, but I did need to make adjustments. It’s becoming apparent that European users of our book generally have access to softer flours than typical American all-purpose flour. In the US, flour “hardness,” or protein content, is about 10 or 11 percent for all-purpose. My guess is that your protein content is closer to 9… if so, you’ll need more flour, or less water. Otherwise the dough will be too slack. It’s not too late to try to incorporate another quarter-cup of flour… Otherwise, a little more flour in the next batch. Please let us know how your experiments go.


  22. I almost hate to muddy the waters with this question, but it is killing me to find out the answer. Was lunching at a Paneras a while back and as we waited in line, watched one of the bread guys readying a batch of bagettes for the oven.

    He took them out of their “raising trays” and before tossing it onto a wide peel, he took each loaf and gave it a healthy pull/stretch before slashing it and spraying it with what looked like oil. The stretch seemed to deflate the loaf a bit but not as much as punching it down. Once he had 4-6 loaves on the peel, he slid them into the oven and you could hear the steam inject after he closed the door.

    He pulled them from about 14″ to 18 or 20″ long so it was a significant stretch I’d say at least 25%.

    So the question is – why the pull of the loaves? Based on my previous experience/rudimentary knowledge of bread baking, that seemed counter productive to the desired outcome.

    And what benefit comes from the spritz of oil? Shine or would it add to the crust?

    Thanks for indulging my curiosity – I feel that I’ve finally found someone to ask!

    Just stirred up my first batch of boule and can’t wait till I can bake tomorrow. Ann

  23. Ann:

    First off, I have no idea why he’d stretch out baguettes at the last minute. Perhaps he was waiting for maximal gluten “relaxation” before getting them maximally thin? This is something you could get away with when using fresh dough, but I wouldn’t try it with out stuff. With our stored doughs, you really don’t want to subject them to this kind of over-handling; that knocks some of the precious preserved gas out of the loaf.

    My guess is that it wasn’t oil he was spraying, it was a cornstarch or other starchy wash, which gives a certain color and glaze to loaves. I wouldn’t consider it all that traditional to a baguette, but you can certainly give it a try on baguettes (see page 51 of our book). Oil would soften the crust and that wouldn’t be a good idea for traditional crispy baguettes–I’m sure it wasn’t oil.

    Let us know how your boule turns out. Jeff

  24. Hi Ann,

    Don’t tell Jeff, but I stretch my baguettes at the last minute all the time. I do it with the most gentle hand possible!

    I generally let my baguettes rest on the counter and then lift them up, give them a gentle stretch to finalize the shape and place them on the peel.

    This is just between us!

    I agree with Jeff about what was being sprayed on the dough at the last minute.

    Thanks, Zoe

  25. Jeff, Jeff, Jeff….

    a girl has to have a few secrets! or what fun would life be without that mystery?!?

    So here’s the report on my first loaf – it was a small one that didn’t seem to rise much either before baking or during – it just kind of shot out on one side so it looks a bit like a ping pong paddle.

    I’m used to bread baking for 20 minutes so I took it out a bit early and gee, the center is a bit doughy… I also need to go buy the thermometer since this oven came over on the Mayflower and I seriously doubt any part of it is accurate!

    The crust is BEAUTIFUL and what I have tasted is pretty darn good. Can’t wait to bake up the other loaf and see if I can’t do better.

    As I’m not a big white bread kinda girl, I’m quite anxious to do rye & multi grain BUT I told myself I had to get through at least one or two of the basic recipe first.

    Thanks a million — you two are my new heros!! 🙂

  26. Thanks Ann:

    Try a few things and see what happens:

    1. Check your oven temperature. It really sounds like it’s running cool. That should help the doughy-ness problem.

    2. Rest the formed loaf a little longer and make sure you’re slashing it at least a quarter inch or deeper. That should help the wierd shape problem.

    3. Substitute at least a little rye or WW for the white; the flavor will be more interesting to you and it’s not really much harder.

    4. No secrets!


  27. I’ve ordered your book from Amazon. I tried to order it through the link to your site. Not sure if that worked or not. Anyway I should be receiving it on Monday. Have you given out weights of the ingredients yet? I know you will be doing this in your next book, but was wondering if you posted weights of ingredients anywhere for the master recipe. I was a terrible baker until I started measuring by weight. I don’t trust the scoop and level method. It would be great if you posted the weights on your web site. Thanks

  28. Hi Sandy,

    We don’t have the weights posted yet but we are working on it.

    1 cup unbleached all-purpose = 5oz

    1 cup whole wheat flour =
    4 1/2oz

    I just ran out of rye flour, so maybe Jeff can give you that or I’ll get back to you!

    Enjoy the book and keep us posted!

    Thanks, Zoe

  29. Hi,

    I would love to try the master recipe bread but don’t have a pizza stone. Can I bake it on a heavy cookie sheet with parchment?

    Thanks for any tips. Stephanie

  30. Hi Stephanie,

    Yes, you can and you will still get great results! The crust won’t be quite as thin and crisp, but it will still be wonderful. Be sure to add the broiler pan with steam, that will really help your crust.

    Thanks for trying the recipe.


  31. I had some rye dough that was a little over a week old and made the Onion Rye yesterday. Wow!! Just like from the bakery only better. The crust was crisp,the bread was deliciously chewy and the onion added so much flavor.
    On another note, I made Brioche dough which didn’t seem extraordinarily wet but when I went to make the Swiss Museli Breakfast Bread, I could not even begin to think of forming it. It was so soupy that I just placed it into a bread pan. It is more the consistency of batter bread but GOOD. I’ll see how the Brioche dough works with the next loaf…maybe it was too wet.

  32. I read about your book last month in the local food section of the paper and decided to give your book a try. I ordered the book from the bookstore, took it home and proceeded to make my first batch with my new powerful stand mixer. All turned out well and I made my second batch yesterday. Needless to say, we are enjoying the heck out of the boule.
    I’m going to try some of the other delicious-sounding breads in the future, after I purchase a good baking stone and peel. (We’ve been pleased with the results so far but still want to try it your way.) BTW…I put my second batch into a 5 qt. tall ice cream pail and it seems to be working nicely, as it doesn’t take up as much room in the fridge as the wide bowls.
    Thanks for showing us a way to make easy and delicious bread!

  33. Just wanted to let you know that I discovered the cinnamon roll recipe and gave it a try.
    I have a cold kitchen so I let the rolls rise on the counter for 5 hours (over night) and popped them into the over for breakfast this morning. I think I have a fantastic new breakfast treat for us. The rolls were a perfect size and had a perfect texture. (I used the boule dough that was a day old so I can’t wait to try the recipe with one of the other dough recipes.)
    All I can say is that my husband is getting spoiled with all of the baking I’ve been doing. We are loving it.
    I definitely give the cinnamon roll recipe, made with basic dough the highest rating. Delicous!

  34. I just received the book. I made my first batch of dough today, incorporating 1 cup of my sourdough starter. I’m anxious to taste the resulting bread tomorrow.

  35. Hi Zoe –
    I just finished eating the bread made with my starter and your master recipe.

    A great loaf of bread with a fabulous flavor!

  36. Has anyone tried actually adding a bit of sourdough starter to the mix at the beginning? I was considering putting 1/2 cup or so in the bottom of the bucket before I started the next batch. Is it likely to kill the commercial yeast if I do?

  37. Joyce: I know traditional books sometimes claim that sourdough and commercial yeast somehow get into a Family Feud in the dough bucket, but I haven’t found that. I’ve done exactly what you suggest and it works well. I’ve gone so far as to eliminate the commercial yeast (and use about 1 1/2 cups of starter), but it’s temperamental, sometimes turning out over-dense.

    But what you’re suggesting works well, and can be stored like our other stuff. Jeff

  38. I have a sourdough starter that I have been maintaining for 2 years now. Is it possible to use it for some or all of the yeast in the master recipe in in addition to jump start the sour character that 5 days of refrigeration fermentation yields?

  39. Starter definitely works in the method. I’ve used a cup or two, adjusting the flour and water in the recipe to maintain the expected dough consistency. You can certainly decrease the yeast– you’ll have to experiment at that point. Jeff

  40. If you keep whole grains to less than about 1 1/2 cups of the total, you can swap it for white flour in our Master Recipe on page 26. You’ll probably need extra water, and with the strong flavor of flax, so easy at first. Maybe 3/4 cup.

    VWG can help too: Next book: lots of flax, so more to come.

  41. So how long can the Boule dough be safely stored in the refrigerator? Book suggests make enough for 7-10 days, but is 14 ok? Is it safe? Will it rise?

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