This is the easiest and most delicious artisan bread you can make at home. The recipe features 4 ingredients and requires zero kneading. It is perfect for just about any meal, can be flavored with a wide variety of tasty add-ins, and can be set up well in advance. It is a great all-purpose bread that is perfect for beginners and experts alike.
4-Ingredient Artisan Bread
- 3-1/4 cups bread flour
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 2 tsp coarse salt
- 1-1/2 cups water at room temp or slightly above
- In a large un-greased mixing bowl, whisk the flour, yeast, and salt together. Pour in the water and gently mix together with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The dough will seem dry and shaggy, but keep working it until all the flour is moistened. If needed, use your hands to work the dough ingredients together. The dough will be sticky. Shape into a ball in the bowl as best you can.
- Keeping the dough in the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and set on the counter at room temperature. Allow to rise for 2-3 hours. The dough will just about double in size, stick to the sides of the bowl, and have a lot of air bubbles.
- You can continue to the next step immediately, but for the absolute best flavor and texture, let this risen dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours (up to 3 days). The dough will puff up during this time, but may begin to deflate after 2 days. That’s fine and normal – nothing to worry about.
- Lightly dust a large nonstick baking sheet (with or without rims and make sure it’s nonstick) with flour and/or cornmeal. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut dough in half. Some air bubbles will deflate as you work with it. Place dough halves on prepared baking sheet. Using floured hands, shape into 2 long loaves about 9×3 inches each (doesn’t have to be exact) about 3 inches apart. Loosely cover and allow to rest for 45 minutes. You will bake the dough on this prepared baking sheet.
- During the 45 minute rest, preheat the oven to 475°F (246°C).
- When ready to bake, using a very sharp knife, score the bread loaves with 3 slashes, about 1/2 inch deep. If the shaped loaves flattened out during the 45 minute rest, use floured hands to narrow them out along the sides again.
- Optional for a slightly crispier crust: After the oven is preheated and bread is scored, place a shallow metal or cast iron baking pan or skillet on the bottom oven rack. Carefully and quickly pour 3-4 cups of boiling water into it. Place the scored dough/baking pan on a higher rack and quickly shut the oven, trapping the steam inside. The steam helps create a crispier crust.
- Place the shaped and scored dough (on the flour/cornmeal dusted pan) in the preheated oven on the center rack. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Gently tap the loaves– if they sound hollow, the bread is done. For a more accurate test of doneness, the bread is done when an instant read thermometer inserted in the center reads 195°F (90°C).
- Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool before slicing and serving. Store leftovers loosely covered at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The dough can sit in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, so this is a wonderful recipe to begin ahead of time. You can also bake the bread, allow it to cool, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before serving. You can also freeze the dough. Complete the recipe through step 3. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in a freezer-friendly container. To bake, allow dough to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or for 2-3 hours at room temperature. Continue with step 4 and the rest of the recipe instructions.
- Flour: For the absolute best flavor and chewy texture, use bread flour. You can use a 1:1 substitution of all-purpose flour with no other changes to the recipe. Avoid whole wheat flour in this dough.
- Yeast: You can use instant or active dry yeast, but it is best to use instant (aka “rapid rise” or “quick rise” yeast).
- Salt: Use a coarse salt. Table salt will not give this bread the correct flavor.
- Water: Use cool water. 70°F (21°C) is great, but the exact temperature doesn’t matter as long as it’s not hot or warm.
- Round Loaf: If you want to shape the dough into a boule (round loaf) simply shape into a round ball instead of 2 loaves in step 4. Baking instructions are the same, but the loaf will take a few extra minutes in the oven.
- Using a pizza stone: If you want to bake your bread loaves on a pizza stone, place pizza stone in the preheating oven. In step 8, place the shaped and scored dough on your preheated pizza stone. If the bottom of the shaped dough is pretty sticky, dust the hot pizza stone with some extra cornmeal. Bake as directed.
- No Nonstick Pan: If you don’t have a nonstick baking sheet, line it with parchment paper instead. Coat with a dusting of flour and/or cornmeal before placing the dough on top. Parchment paper can burn, so it’s best to check the box to see how much heat yours can tolerate. Lower your oven heat if necessary and bake the bread for longer until golden brown and when gently tapped, sound hollow.
- Flavor ideas: Before pouring in the water in step 1, add any of the following ingredients/combination of ingredients to the dry ingredients in the bowl: 4 cloves minced garlic + 3 Tablespoons chopped rosemary, 3 Tablespoons your favorite fresh herb (chopped), 1 cup your favorite shredded cheese, a diced jalapeño, 3/4 – 1 cup dried cranberries and/or chopped nuts, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, etc.