November 3rd, 2008

european peasant bread

peasant bread 3

the girl recently surprised me with a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, a book that aims to simplify the process of making fancy high-quality bread. i definitely recommend it, even if i had trouble believing that the authors could pull off the concept before tasting it myself. the basic idea is that you can make bake great bread that tastes like you spent much more time on it than you really did – no starters or kneading necessary. that’s right, no kneading.

peasant bread 1 dough 1

with most of the recipes in the book, an overly wet dough is quickly mixed together and allowed to rise in the bowl straight away. it is then quickly shaped into loaves after a few hours of rising. for those few seconds that the dough was actually in my hands for shaping, i was tempted to start working it on the counter to get a consistency i was more comfortable with, but the whole point is to let the ingredients do their job.

peasant bread dough 3

restraint definitely pays off with these recipes. i know mark bittman’s no-knead bread was all the rage, but the rising time for the original recipe is 12-18 hours. this peasant bread rose for 2 hours, and then another 40 minutes after it was shaped and as the oven warmed up. the crust and crumb were delicious, and as the smell of this bread filled the apartment, it made me want to grab a loaf and have a picnic in the park with a block of cheese and a cheap bottle of wine.

peasant bread 2

since my kitchen is about 40 degrees most mornings, there’s only more incentive this season to fire up the oven and bake a fresh loaf of bread every day or two. join me, won’t you?

peasant bread 4

european peasant bread
makes 4 loaves (so this recipe can be easily halved). from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tbsp instant yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5 1/2 cups flour

1. mix the salt and yeast with the water in a large bowl. mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading. the dough will be very wet. cover with a towel and allow to rest at room temperature for about 2 hours.

2. at this point you can use the dough or refrigerate (it will keep for about 2 weeks). if you are going to make the bread right away, it’s still a good idea to refrigerate the dough for an hour or two so it is easier to handle.

3. cut off a section of the dough (1/4 if you make enough for 4 loaves), and dust it with flour. quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered baking sheet. while the dough is rising, heat the oven to 450 F and place an empty broiler tray (i used a small casserole dish) on the lowest rack in the oven. if you are baking on a baking stone, place it in the oven to heat up with the oven.

4. when the oven is ready and the dough has risen, sprinkle the loaf liberally with flour and make a few 1/4 inch deep slashes on the top using a serated bread knife (a cross or tic-tac-toe pattern both work). leave the flour on top of the loaf during baking.

5. place the baking sheet into the oven (or slide the dough onto your baking stone). pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, quickly close the oven and bake for about 35 minutes. the top should get a good hard crust and will be deeply browned. allow to cool on a cooling rack and brush off excess flour from the top of the loaf before slicing.

56 Comments for european peasant bread - why not leave some love?

  1. Jess says:

    I would really really want to knead it. The temptation would be overwhelming. But the end product looks very nice and crusty.

  2. Y says:

    I love rustic breads. Yours looks fabulous. Did you know Zoe Francois has a blog?

    If you love the book, Pete Bakes should certainly meet Zoe Bakes 😀

  3. mary says:

    I’ve been thinking about buying this book. Glad to hear that you like it.

  4. Louise says:

    I treated myself to this book last summer because of two torn rotator cuffs and have been a happy glutton ever since – my husband is also enjoying the results of this effortless bread baking and my daughter, who was a professional baker in San Francisco a good number of years ago is having fun with these recipes. You won’t be disappointed – next project the reason I really bought the book – the rye bread, shades of my childhood.

  5. I’m Jeff Hertzberg, one of the co-authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I’m so glad our recipes are working well for you. Come visit us anytime at, where you can post questions into any “Comments” field, or click on “Bread Questions” on the left side of the homepage and choose among the options.

    Jeff Hertzberg

    Chicago tribune video:

  6. Amy says:

    In addition to Zoe bakes, there is the book’s blog.
    Your bread looks great, by the way!

  7. I’m intrigued. And the texture looks surprisingly bread-like for not kneading. I’ll definitely have to try it. Great photos!

  8. Elle says:

    That does it! I’m buying this book this weekend. Your bread looks incredible–I can almost smell it baking. Gorgeous photos, too!

  9. Ramona says:

    Your bread looks beautiful. The crust and flour..and the way the bread yields in the middle. I think I’ll put the book on my Christmas list…

  10. Rivka says:

    great site — thanks for linking! always happy to discover fellow dc bloggers. we should organize an event or something….

  11. Shaw Girl says:

    So went out and bought this book on my lunch break based on how beautiful your bread looks. Will let you know the results!

  12. Your loaf is truly gorgeous! Thank you so much for trying out the recipes and sharing your wonderful bread with your readers!

    Best, Zoë Francois

  13. cheryl says:

    I borrowed this book from the library and renewed it and returned it late. I loved the idea but found it hard to eat 4 loaves of bread in 2 weeks. My dough went really sour once. The sticky bun recipe was delicious. I’ll have to try it again when I have more time.

  14. dawn says:

    you know I learned the hard way, not to come to your website on an empty stomach (after seeing those friggin donuts), and yet, here I am again, starving….

  15. dana says:

    Chleby są po prostu bajeczne.Już czuję ten zapach. Pozdrawiam z Polski.

  16. Adrienne says:

    I just discovered your blog and I love it – I also love this book! I bought it last week and have already made three loaves of bread. My roommate who has very strong feelings about bread and how moist it ought to be really enjoys it. I’m glad you’re enjoying it too!

  17. caren says:

    I am in the throws of making this recipe….I halved it and didn’t find the dough wet at all…I am concerned. I will see how it goes. I also used more whole wheat white flour than called for because all of my white flour has been used on xmas cookies. We will see how it turns out, I am very novice so chances are it will take me a couple of tries.
    I love your site…thanks Pete!

  18. Doreen Armstrong says:

    My daughter Jackie tells me onces I get set up for this bread I will not make any other. I do have a bread machine. So I will get back to you.

  19. Bread Lover says:

    I tried the 12 hour no-knead bread recipe but this is WAY BETTER, thanks Pete!! I couldn’t find rye flour and cheated by using 1 cup of whole wheat flour, turned out fine. Great texture and love the crust.

  20. Caren says:

    I emailed you a few weeks ago about trying to get that crackly crust like on sourdough loaves. I figured out that if you do their cornstarch wash, it does the job perfectly! (Corstarch wash: 1/4 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1/4 c water-heat in microwave for 45 sec. and brush on top of loaf before slashing. Don’t use the flour if using cornstarch wash. I added some course seasalt after the wash and added fresh rosemary to the dough…yum!

  21. katie says:

    This bread was very good! One thing I would add-grease your pan, then sprinkle with cornmeal, then put the dough on. I ended up with the top of a loaf of bread. I don’t really mind prying bread crust off my pan, but that’s just me.

  22. Kirsten says:

    I just made this and it is wonderful. I’m off to make split pea soup to go with it.

  23. Kim says:

    I made my dough last night. Made a loaf this morning. Immediately I cut a slice, buttered it and added strawberry jam. I thought I was in heaven. I love good textured bread, but I absolutely love a good hearty crust. I am on the atkins diet so I just blew my day with bread, but it was soooo worth it. I also only ended up with three loaves. Not sure what I did. My son loves bread too and we ate almost an entire loaf a few minutes ago! Great recipe, great bread. Hopefully I am not sick in the morning, lol. Thanks again.

  24. Barbara says:

    Hey Pete, great blog. In the second rising, Step 3, you don’t say how long to let it rise. Are you looking for it to double in size, say, another hour? Also, can you sub only white flour for more of an Italian-style loaf? Many thanks.

    • petebakes says:

      hi Barbara – the second rise should be between half an hour and 45 minutes. the dough will almost double in size again. i usually just let it rise as the oven heats up and once it hits the right mark, give it another 10-15 minutes for good measure.

  25. molly says:

    I just made a a loaf yesterday. The recipe does not say what kind of flour to use, all-purpose or bread flour? I didn’t want to assume anything and waste ingredients if it didn’t work out so I did half all-purpose and half bread flour and subbed the rye with more whole wheat. I baked mine dutch-oven style to get that great crust plus I hate pouring water into a hot hot oven. The bread turned out wonderful-lots of holes, crunchy crust, and a slightly chewy inside. I think the flavor is lacking compared to an over night pre-ferment type dough but for one day bread this is a keeper! Please tell me though… is it supposed to be all-purpose or bread flour!?

  26. chris says:

    I think I must be a total idiot. I first tried Mark Bittman’s No-Knead bread a few months ago and found myself removing a sad, flat, hard-as-a-rock piece of coagulated mass.

    I tried my hand at bread again a few weeks ago with the rye bread recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes. Sad and flat again, but this time at least tasty.

    I asked all my bread-making friends and family what could be going wrong–water too hot for the yeast, not letting rise long enough, etc, etc–so this time I made sure to do everything perfectly, letting the dough double in size, making sure the water was truly lukewarm, but, yet again, another sad, flat piece of bread (still delicious!).

    PLEASE–any suggestions?

    • Alice says:

      If you have already solved your problem, great. Otherwise…. Just a question: how much are you slashing the dough before you bake it? If you slash TOO deeply or disturb the dough a lot you can collapse the bubbles that are supposed to hold your bread up. Also, your oven might not be hot enough when you put the dough in. Your predicament is puzzling, and without seeing what you are doing it is hard to guess what could be going wrong. If the dough doubles in size while rising it can’t be a problem with the yeast or the flour. The only thing I can think of is the disturbance factor, so maybe if you were to slash shallowly only once or at the most twice it would help.
      I hope you have some success soon!

  27. Josh says:

    I’m pretty new to baking bread and this sounded pretty easy so I tried it. I had a couple problems and I was hoping somebody could help me out. First, i halved the recipe you gave and my first problem was that it wasn’t “very wet” like you said it would be so i’m wondering if it was bad to halve it. Second, I don’t think the bread rose enough because it was very dense and small. What can I do to fix these things? Your suggestions will be very appreciated. (anything I can do to get fresh bread all the time)

  28. Helen in CA says:

    As a reader who’s been trying this method of bread-baking……it says in the book that it’s best to let the bread sit overnight (easier for new folks to shape). That might help. Luke-warm water.

    And the flour is All-Purpose Flour (not bread flour).

  29. Alice says:

    I received the book “Artisan Baking in 5 Minutes a Day” for Christmas from my parents last year. I haven’t tried the recipes yet because I don’t have my own place and do my baking in small batches (I live in the dorm and use my desk space for breadmaking, then bake the loaves in the kitchenette). I would have a hard time with the not kneading thing, but I guess you would get used to it. Your result looks fabulous, I must admit. Thanks for the inspiration!

  30. […] Learn how to make your own no-knead European peasant bread. Pete of used a recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. You may recall that […]

  31. Ewa says:

    I am Polish (temporary staying in the USA) and bread (in Polish: chleb) is kinda big deal in my country. I got hungry just from looking as it at the pictures you took… thank for posting.

  32. rammasn says:

    you all should try the mexican bread it is awesome even though iam from england,london. some of this bread sucks alot so check and put some new bread “peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeete bakes” write back soon

  33. Catherine says:

    You’re bread looks wonderful and I thought I’d give it a go. I just mixed it up but had the same issue as another person – it wasn’t very wet. I think it might be the flour I use. It’s a local “stone ground” white flour. It says you can substitute it for all purpose. I use it in other breads and generally find it makes a firmer dough. I suppose I could easily fix this by using another flour but I’d really like to keep using it. Does anybody know if it is acceptable to decrease the amount of flour/increase the amount of liquid to make dough that is wet as it should be?

  34. […] and again, I got impatient. (This seems to be a theme!) I had an urge to make new bread so I used this recipe online. It’s from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. This is achieved by mixing large quantities […]

  35. […] fun with the dough so I decided on Chutney Bread. I used the chutney I made back in December. The recipe for the dough is found here. (Though I would make two corrections. First, use about 2/3 the amount of salt if […]

  36. jen says:

    Hey Pete! Lurking on your site for a while and have just recently picked up “Artisan Bread”. I’ve been pleased with results I’ve had so far but I’m a novice baker and I have a question. I want to make larger loaves than the “1-pound grapefruit sized” the recipes are suggesting–any general tips on what adjustments I should make to the resting and then baking times? Thanks for any tips!

  37. LW N says:

    I had this bread at a potluck yesterday and it was fabulous. Looks beautiful and has a wonderful consistency and chewy crust – artisan bread

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  39. Sarah Nelson says:

    Pete (or Whom ever),

    My in-laws are in love with your bread and blog! I have added you to my blog roll. I hope you don’t mind.

  40. Lucy says:

    I made this today… delicious! Instead of water I used some whey I had left over from a batch of homemade ricotta cheese. Gave it just a little bit of tang. This will become a staple. Thank you!!!

  41. Absolutley LOVED this book– found the cinnamon rolls incredible, as well! Thank you for sharing the peasant bread recipe! mmmmmm. delicious!

  42. […] doughs in the book. I used Light Whole Wheat but you can find the recipe for the European Peasant here if you want to try making your own pita. I’ll include the directions here, but I do really […]

  43. […] She recommends this post that explains the basic recipe, with photos of the different steps. This European Peasant Bread is particularly […]

  44. […] Want to give it a try? The book has many different varieties you can make, but here’s a recipe for a quaint little European peasant […]

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  46. iris says:

    Great great looking loaf.
    I’m going to try this tomorrow.
    Thanks for sharing.

  47. […] experimenting with a few versions, due to my love of rye I made the Pete Bakes! version my go-to, and bought the book online. (It’s still in the mail, but should be here any day for […]

  48. […] For a while now, I’ve always wanted to bake homemade bread like what you find in European bakeries, as well as at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.  I came across a few that piqued my interest, but the one that I decided to go with is a recipe for European peasant bread that was posted on a website called, “Pete Bakes!” […]

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