Back to Basics ~ tips and techniques to create a great loaf in 5 minutes a day.

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Note that there is an updated version of this post, click here to view.

Recently we have seen lots of new readers on the website who are asking wonderful questions about how to perfect their loaves. First I’d like to say welcome to the site and thank you for trying the bread. As I bake through the basic Master recipe from ABin5 I will try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and also introduce you to a few new pieces of equipment I’ve recently started to use that make the whole experience just a little easier.  The goal is to create a large batch of dough that stores in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. That’s why our method saves  you so much time– all the mixing and prep is divided over four one-pound loaves.

Master Recipe from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking:

3 cups lukewarm water (you can use cold water, but it will take the dough longer to rise. Just don’t use hot water or you may kill the yeast)

1 tablespoon granulated yeast ( you can use any kind of yeast including: instant, “quick,” rapid rise, bread machine, active dry, or fresh cake yeast*. We’ve always tested with Red Star Yeast and they have a new premium product called PLATINUM, which has worked beautifully in our recipes. You can also decrease the amount of yeast in the recipe by following the directions here. Or you can bake with a sour dough starter, see instructions here.)

*If you use cake yeast you will need 1.3 ounces.

1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons Morton Kosher Salt (adjust to suit your taste or eliminate it all together. Find more information here)

6 1/2 cups (2-pounds) all-purpose flour (we tested the recipes with Gold Medal flour. If you use a higher protein flour check here)

Mixing the dough:

Platinum Yeast | Breadin5

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In a 5 or 6 quart bowl or lidded Food Storage Container, dump in the water and add the yeast and salt. Because we are mixing in the flour so quickly it doesn’t matter that the salt and yeast are thrown in together.

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(If you are using the fresh cake yeast break it up with a spoon)

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Dump in the flour all at once and stir with a long handled wooden spoon or a Danish Dough Whisk, which is one of the tools that makes the job so much easier!

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Stir it until all of the flour is incorporated into the dough, as you can see it will be a wet rough dough.

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Put the lid on the container, but do not snap it shut. You want the gases from the yeast to escape. (I had my husband put a little hole in the top of the lids so that I could close the lids and still allow the gases to get out. As you can see it doesn’t take much of a hole to accomplish this.)

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Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours to rise. When you first mix the dough it will not occupy much of the container.

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But, after the initial 2 hour rise it will pretty much fill it. (If you have decreased the yeast you will have to let it go longer than 2 hours.)  DO NOT PUNCH DOWN THE DOUGH! Just let it settle by itself.

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The dough will be flat on the top and some of the bubbles may even appear to be popping. (If you intend to refrigerate the dough after this stage it can be placed in the refrigerator even if the dough is not perfectly flat. The yeast will continue to work even in the refrigerator.) The dough can be used right after the initial 2 hour rise, but it is much easier to handle when it is chilledIt is intended for refrigeration and use over the next two weeks, ready for you anytime.  The flavor will deepen over that time, developing sourdough characteristics.

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The next day when you pull the dough out of the refrigerator you will notice that it has collapsed and this is totally normal for our dough. It will never rise up again in the container.

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Dust the surface of the dough with a little flour, just enough to prevent it from sticking to your hands when you reach in to pull a piece out.

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You should notice that the dough has a lot of stretch once it has rested. (If your dough breaks off instead of stretching like this your dough is probably too dry and you can just add a few tablespoons of water and let it sit again until the dough absorbs the additional water.)

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Cut off a 1-pound piece of dough using kitchen shears* and form it into a ball. For instructions on how to form the ball watch one of our videos.  Place the ball on a sheet of parchment paper… (or rest it on a generous layer of corn meal on top of a pizza peel.)

*I actually use a pair of Sewing Shears because I like the long blade. I just dedicated a pair to the kitchen.

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Let the dough rest for at least 40 minutes, (although letting it go 60 or even 90 minutes will give you a more open hole structure in the interior of the loaf. This may also improve the look of your loaf and prevent it from splitting on the bottom. ) You will notice that the loaf does not rise much during this rest, in fact it may just spread sideways, this is normal for our dough.

You can also try our “refrigerator rise trick,” shaping the loaves and then immediately refrigerating them overnight.  By morning, they’ll have risen and are ready for the oven after a brief room-temp rest while the oven preheats (click for instructions).

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a Baking Stone* on the center rack, with a metal broiler tray on the bottom (never use a glass vessel for this or it will shatter), which will be used to produce steam. (The tray needs to be at least 4 or 5 inches away from your stone to prevent it from cracking.)

*(or Cast Iron Pizza Pan- which will never crack and conducts heat really well. Be careful to dry it after rinsing with water or it will rust)

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Cut the loaf with 1/4-inch slashes using a serrated knife. (If your slashes are too shallow you will end up with an oddly shaped loaf and also prevent it from splitting on the bottom.)

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Slide the loaf into the oven onto the preheated stone (the one I’m using is the cast iron) and add a cup of hot water to the broiler tray. Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes or until a deep brown color. As the bread bakes you should notice a nice oven spring in the dough. This is where the dough rises. To insure that you get the best results it is crucial to have an Oven Thermometer to make sure your oven is accurate.

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If you used parchment paper you will want to remove it after about 20-25 minutes to crisp up the bottom crust. Continue baking the loaf directly on the stone for the last 5-10 minutes.

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Allow the loaf to cool on a rack until it is room temperature. If you cut into a loaf before it is cooled you will have a tough crust and a gummy interior. It is hard to wait, but you will be happy you did! Make sure you have a nice sharp Bread Knife that will not crush the bread as you cut. Or you can tear it apart as they do in most of Europe.

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If you have any leftover bread just let it sit, uncovered on the cutting board or counter with the cut side down. If you cover a bread that has a crust it will get soggy.

Enjoy and have fun baking. Bread that is made with love and joy tastes better!

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If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with others using one of the social sharing buttons above. Thanks, Jeff and Zoë

1,302 thoughts on “Back to Basics ~ tips and techniques to create a great loaf in 5 minutes a day.

  1. I’d like to do some additions to this basic recipe occasionally. I’m thinking of things like a bit of orange zest and cardamom, or flax seed and/or millet for texture. In the probably not but it doesn’t hurt to ask department, I’m also wondering about kneading in an egg and a bit of sugar to make fresh cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Can these things be done to a quarter of the dough?

    • Hi Lynette,

      Adding a bit of zest and spices will not change the nature of the dough, but once you start adding new grains, large amounts of sweeteners and eggs, you will change the ratio of the dough. It sounds like you are wanting to make the challah or brioche dough, so I would just start with one of those recipes.

      Thanks and enjoy! Zoë

  2. May I know if u need to use sugar? Normally we need sugar for the yeast … My dough does not seem to rise as high as the pic shown?

    Thank you

  3. hello, do you have a suggestion for someone who doesn’t own a large storage container? my fridge can’t accommodate one. (i’m ok w. making 1 loaf at a time). thanks!

    • Hi Sweetie,

      You can cut any of the recipes in half. You can also use a container that fits your fridge, as long as it holds the same amount. Low and wide is just as good as tall and thin.

      Thanks, Zoë

  4. Bread-sick French expat here and LOVE the book! I am used to making baguettes “the old-fashioned way” and am pleased with how close the results are using your method (personally, I prefer the results with bread flour). I’m hoping to try it with French T65 flour next time I go home. I find French flour to be much “thinner” than US flour, so in adapting French recipes, I use about 1/3 less US flour (otherwise it’s way too dense). Have you tried your recipe with French flour, and does it sound right to you that French flour would require about 1/3 MORE compared to US flour?

    • Hi Em,

      No, I have no access to French flours, but I would LOVE to know how your results are when you go to visit.

      Thanks and glad you are enjoying the bread! Zoë

  5. Hi. I’m going to try this today. I’m just wondering why kosher salt versus sea salt? And can I add a bit of sugar if I like sweeter bread? Thank you

  6. Hi, I’m from Hong Kong. Would that be possible if I refrigerate the dough after/on the 2nd rest for overnight? If so, do I need to put the dough in the room temperature before put into Oven?

  7. I have been using the basic recipe for several years now. I love it. Although my kids really prefer a loaf of bread. Can this basic recipe be used in loaf form (and how)? I am hoping that i can continue to use only the basic recipe for EVERYTHING :)

    Thanks.

  8. Hi!
    I love making homemade bread, love it even more with your technique! My family has gone to all wholegrains. I haven’t given up and I won’t but the wholewheat recipe just doesn’t work for me like the white bread does. It rises with the first rise but then looks and has the texture of a tough cow patty out of the oven. The dough has never been strechy, aways tears. I have tried everything from the book. (It does make a great pizza crust.)

    Please help :)

    Thank You,

    Kelli

  9. I started off with this recipe, and I make this dough quite often. I’ve enjoyed the first book so much that I purchased the book, a dough hook and 6 quart container for my friend – we both love having fresh bread whenever we want.

  10. I have a question. I had great success with my first attempt, and the batch of dough lasted about two weeks. After mixing up the second batch, after baking the first loaf, a few days later, when I went to bake again, the dough had black mold spots all over the top. I discarded it all, and started a new batch of dough. Now, again, when I went to bake the second loaf from this batch, there was mold on the surface. I had thoroughly washed my container after discarding the first moldy dough, before I began mixing a new batch. Could my fridge be the problem? Thanks for any suggestions.

    • Barbara: Do you mean spots, or was there actually just a grey liquid covering a dark, even-colored surface. Spots mean mold, but an even dark surface is not– that’s natural souring and the dough could still be used. Jeff

  11. I think I accidentally miscounted and put in 1 cup too much flour. Any way to salvage this batch or do I have to start over? It’s extremely dry. 1st time trying to make your recipe.

  12. Oh My Gosh! This is AMAZING! I heard about your cookbook from nestingplace.com and just made my first loaf of bread. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I plan writing about your recipe and linking back to your site, if that’s ok. :)

  13. I bought HBin5 about a year ago and I haven’t bought a loaf of bread since. My favourite go-to recipe is 100% whole wheat with olive oil.
    I recently purchased a locally milled quantity of organic whole wheat flour – 25kg to be exact (we are big bread eaters!). I tried my usual recipe with the new flour, which I should mention is hard red spring wheat – apparently higher protein – and the dough isn’t the same as normal. The bread turns out tasty, even better than normal, but the loaf is much flatter and spread out, and the dough breaks off rather than stretching.

    I read the post on higher protein breads needing more water, but I think I’m within normal because the dough doesn’t feel dry. Any other suggestions on how to improve the dough, or should I suck it up and enjoy how delicious the bread turns out?

    • Nicola: Did a post on a similar product once at http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=1165

      But it doesn’t really get to your problem. Usual cause of sideways spreading:
      1. Not enough gluten-cloaking when form the loaves
      2. Not enough protein in the flour: consider more VWG. Might be the opposite of your guess.
      3. Too much water (the opposite of what you’re suggesting). Too-wet dough won’t hold a shape

      As I say in the post, these fresh-milled flours are inconsistent, though delicious and wholesome. Jeff

      • I read your post about fresh milled flours and it was helpful; gave me the idea of borrowing an electronic scale and weighing the flour. It is just under 6oz a cup, so I was overdoing it on the flour before. I weighed the flour this time and came to 2lbs for the 7 cups of flour required in the recipe (a friend is borrowing my book, so I tried to do the math to figure out what the weight would be for the WW with olive oil recipe.
        I may have mixed up the math somewhere because the dough seemed wet this time and definitely still spread a lot.
        You mentioned increasing the VWG – how much would you recommend for a batch? The grain seems much coarser than I am used to, so it just isn’t handling how my Robin Hood flour did.

        Sorry if the post is a little convoluted, I am a little confused myself! I appreciate all your input; I don’t know of any authors who are this involved in helping readers!

  14. Nicola: You can try increasing the VWG, maybe to 3/8 of a cup. But given the coarseness of this particular grind, may matter; it just won’t absorb water like commercial flour. Next step would be to try decreasing the water.

    But it’ll make nice flatbreads till you use up your 25# bag… Jeff

  15. I made a half batch of the peasant loaf version of the bread yesterday, and realized today when I baked a (pretty puny) loaf that I had halved everything correctly EXCEPT the salt. The result was a loaf that didn’t rise well in the oven and is toooooo salty. So today I made a new half batch with no salt at all. It’s currently rising. When should I mix the two together? Should I have already done it? Can I knead it together right now and let both rise together?

    • Hi Aimee,

      Yes, mix them together now and then let them rise together before refrigerating. It may be easiest to do this in a mixer if you have one.

      Thanks, Zoë

  16. I am about to move my very first batch from the counter top to the fridge. Is it OK to seal my lid on my bowl at this point? Or do I keep it unsealed, even in the fridge?

    I’m so excited. My breadmaker that I’ve had since I got married (18 years) just died, so I’m venturing into REAL bread. Can’t wait to see how this turns out tonight for dinner.

    Blessings,
    Sandy

  17. Sandy: Can seal after a couple of days (but you don’t want a completely airtight container like a screw-top on glass. More details in the books. Jeff

    • Great. Thanks. That helps a lot.

      Made my first loaf a few nights ago. (Well, LOAVES) because I’m feeding a family of 5. It was a HUGE hit. Delicious. I most definitely will be getting one or more of your books. Thank you so much.

      (heard of you from Nesting Place)

  18. I made the recipe in this post for the first time today, but I must’ve done something wrong bc the dough didn’t rise very much at all for the 2 hours it sat on the counter. I put it in the fridge and it still hasn’t risen very much. What do you think I did wrong? Was my water not warm enough for the yeast? Can I use this dough for a flat bread or pizza dough now or is junk? Thanks.

      • Amanda, Jeff ..I had the same problem and all my ingredients were fresh (just purchased day before). No rise in mine after several hours on the counter. I was wondering if too much salt or undissolved salt would stop the rise? Also, is my flat dough useless, or can it be used for pizza or something?

  19. I found your book in the library and just love the recipes and results. Right out of the gate I was getting the right results. However different flour brands have effected that and so I am figuring that out and tweeking. My question is what effects the browning of my loaf. I got some beautiful dark crusts in the first attempts, now they just stay a very light golden color. No matter how long I leave them in.

      • Thanks ,I will back track and see if I changed anything else. My family just loves the bread and I am sure to find a book or two for Christmas. Merry Christmas

  20. This may not be on topic and I apologize for that.

    I’ve been making the cheese bread variation of your basic recipe for quite awhile now. I adapted it after a trip to Pike’s Market in Seattle to make a pirogi style stuff sandwich. In preparation for a new years party (I have to work the night before) I made a number of them and froze them.

    I’m looking for advice/guidance on how long to cook them and at what oven temp. When I bake them immediately I use 30 min at 450 on a baking stone and they turn out golden brown and juicy inside.

    Thanks and Happy Holidays. :)
    Jim

    • Jim: Zoe and I were just at that Pirogi place in Pike’s Market when we were on book tour– what a coincidence. I’m assuming you want to bake them straight out of the freezer– I’d try 400 for about 15 minutes, but I think you may need to experiment. Jeff

  21. Hey there,

    A few months ago, I posted a question regarding the use of French T65 flour (for those in France!). Zoe mentioned you guys had never tried. Well, I was in France recently and tried, so I’m happy to report! It works beautifully (and the result is even slightly better in texture and taste, aah, T65…). You just need to adjust the quantity. French flour is “thinner” so you need more of it otherwise the dough is far too wet (and I am saying this as one who likes to keep the dough very wet, which is especially crucial for a baguette). So here it goes for half the recipe above:

    350 ml water
    500 g T65 flour
    3/4 tbsp yeast
    3/4 tbsp salt

    Note: in the US, I usually use 390 g of flour (or even a bit less).

    Anyway, hope this helps some who run into this. I bet other recipes in the book (brioche, etc) can be replicated with French flours with the same adjustment. Will try on the next trip!

    Happy new year and have fun.
    Em

    • Hi Em,

      Thank you for stopping back to share what you found out. So glad it worked, I look forward to getting my hands on some of the flour to try out!

      Cheers, Zoë

  22. I’ve been making this bread for a few weeks now and have noticed that the dough is not as wet as it needs to be this time around. I made it in a large batch yesterday… Am I able to just add water on top of it and let it soak in and will it become the consistency I need? I hate to waste all that dough.. Or do I need to start over?

    • Rebecca: Poke holes into the dough with your fingers, pour on the water. Should soak in overnight. But consider ignoring this and just bake off as-is. Jeff

      • I baked one as was.. It turned out very hard to slice.. (still pretty though) And I added water to the dough and voila! It is a great consistency again! Thanks a lot!

  23. This is really great. I’ve always wanted to make bread, but have been…well too intimidated quite frankly. But this I know I can do!

  24. I’m in the UK. Like most outside of the US and Canada, I don’t have a huge fridge to keep the dough in, even a 3L bucket, which is still big.

    I could manage a 2.3L/4pt, or 3.4L/6pt (at a push), washed out milk container with the top cut off, stored in the door. Would this work?

    • Rosie, that kind of container’s fine, if it’s big enough. Must cover with plastic wrap or something. Fine to halve the recipes. Jeff

      • Thanks. Now to find wheat gluten. I’ve found gluten flour for a sensible price and will have a crack at that.

      • Hi Rosie,

        wheat gluten, gluten flour and vital wheat gluten are all the same thing.

        Thanks, Zoë

    • Hi Norelle,

      So glad you are enjoying the loaf you baked! :) Did you let the loaf cool completely before cutting into it? If it is warm it will seem gummy on the inside.

      Cheers! Zoë

  25. Hi,

    I just want to make sure that I understand – is the mixing stage, before letting the dough rise, the only mixing/kneading that happens? I am excited to try this, but I have never seen a recipe without kneading:)!

    Ris

  26. Can you make a larger double loaf rather than 2 one pound individual loaves? I’ve baked 2 at the same time and they turned out great. Just wondering if I could’ve simply made 1 bigger loaf.

      • Recently purchased your book (Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day)and yesterday, baked off two loaves from the master recipe. They were great! My question is the same as above; for my family of 7, can I bake off a 2 lb loaf from this recipe and if so, does the baking time need to be adjusted? Thanks!

      • Hi Robin-Taine,

        Yes, you can bake 2-pound loaves. You will want to increase the resting time to about 90 minutes and the baking time to about 50 minutes.

        Thanks, Zoë

  27. Hi, I’ve been experimenting with your master recipe with some great success! Thanks for that…I’ve had a long history of some baaaaad bread.
    My question is this…my mom has an allergy to corn, can you recommend a substitute for the cornmeal I put on my peel and baking stone?

  28. Love the book and bread. I just started with it last week and am hooked. I have the same question as Trish. I am using Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day. I have been baking the master recipe on page 26. I would like to make larger loafs…about 2 pounds? Also am anticipating the same question for the European Peasant Bread on Page 46. Thank you in advance for the answere.

  29. I made the bread and everything was fine until I baked it. It did not turn brown. It is as white as a sheet. What did I do wrong?

    • Alice: Confused by your question, we don’t call for a stone oven– which book are you working off of (which recipe and page number)?

  30. Don’t know if my comment from yesterday took hold. My problem is an article by Jeff from March 29, 2010 re the deli rye version which I have made a couple of times but would like to have the complete article. Any chance of getting it, please? Thank you.

  31. I live in Central America and have a tiny oven with only one shelf. Two questions:
    — Could this be baked in a loaf pan rather than on a baking stone?
    — Could I simply put another loaf pan with the water in it on the same shelf, or is it crucial that the water be under the bread?

  32. The one from this post … not sure if these questions all show up in one centralized place for you, or actually attached to the post, but the title is “Back to Basics ~ tips and techniques to create a great loaf in 5 minutes a day.”

    –Also, it is hard to get cornmeal and parchment paper here … any other suggestions for preventing sticking?

  33. I am going to try this for my husband as soon as I get a new oven. I am wondering if you have any recipes for gluten free bread?

  34. I am trying to increase the height of my breads and wondering if any of these factors might be involved:

    I usually cut recipes in half–seldom have space for dough in my crowded fridge, so I make a single loaf from 1/2 the recipe.

    I use SAF Red yeast and keep it in the fridge in between bakings. I’ve made sure the water is about 100 degrees and the yeast is active

    Any thoughts would be appreciated. Love making breads so easily for my kids lunches!

  35. I have your first book and really love it. I wanted to share that I made a batch of rye pita bread, which turned out beautifully. We then assembled the heated components of a Reuben (one of my husband’s favorites), melted the cheese on top, scooped it up on a spatula and slipped it into the pita. What a fabulous sandwich it was! Thank you for these wonderful breads.

  36. Oh my goodness I don’t know how to thank you. I have tried and tried to make bread over the years and have never been successful. I bought your book. Tried your technique, and voila’ perfect bread. So excited!

  37. I’ve been baking your breads for a full year now and I can’t thank you enough.

    I’m teaching a class on Tuesday. The sad part is that everyone in my neighborhood and church who has received my breads will know that I don’t slave for hours baking bread.
    I have all my handouts ready acknowledging your books and website. It will be a lot of fun.

    I recently tried the 10 Grain (out of HBi5) and we love it almost more than the 40 % WW/60 % BreadF, I’ve been baking for a year. I tried Bob’s 7 Grain too but we didn’t care for it.

    I never bake on a stone, however, strictly in covered casseroles, with lid of for the last 5 minutes.

    Bought the Pizza book and love it too!

    Love the white bread but it shows up on the scale the next day, so I consider it a treat, and make it only on rare occasions.

    I only have one question: What is cracked wheat? I’ve found recipes where the wheat is cooked and it’s called cracked wheat but that’s obviously not what you mean in the Cracked Wheat Bread in HBi5 on page 109. Thanks!

    • Martine: Cracked wheat is the whole kernel of wheat, very lightly milled so that it continues to show broken pieces of wheat kernel– it looks nothing like flour, and isn’t precooked.

  38. I received this recipe from a friend, have never made bread before. The recipe looks easy but my question is about altitude…I live at 6000 feet. Do I need to adjust the recipe in some way to be successful?
    Thanks for you advice. Mary

  39. Thank you for posting the master recipe. I was able to try out the bread (using the bleached flourDELICIOUS. I just made the starter yesterday and baked 2 loaves and 1 rounded loaf. If I had not be able to try the master recipe, I would not have purchased your book which has now been ordered on Amazon. Batch 2 is rising as we speak and I’m picking up unbleached flour tomorrow! Used no adjustments for the altitude (at about 5,000 ft.)

    • Hi Mary,

      Yes, but you should know that the pan my warp when you put the hot water in. It is best to use something that is super heavy duty or something you don’t care too much about.

      Thanks, Zoë

  40. Hi! I just baked a loAf this morning…overtakes it somehow and it was a very dark brown…left it on my counter top and came home to cut it up…the bread inside was rubbery…what did I do wrong? Help!!!!! Thanks in advance! Btw, I just used the recipe in this post…havent get my hands on the book yet!

    • Kitty: Check our FAQs page, click the tab above. Esp “Dense crumb…” Once you get the books, there are more troubleshooting tips.

      • Hi Jeff! Okay! Thanks! Unfortunately, I gotta wait awhile more before I can get the book..
        Also, the max temp that my oven can go is 230c, hw shld I adjust for that?
        Just want to ask if I can use the combination function in my steam oven instd of pouring the hot water in when I put the bread..I used the combi function for my first loaf..thx…

      • Kitty: 230c is 450f, so that should be hot enough. That steam might work if there’s enough of it…

      • Hi Jeff! I don’t really see much steam coming frm it..but when I open the door I can feel the moist air…maybe I will try the gOod old way of pouring the water in instead the next round!! Thank you!

  41. Made the master recipe, 2 days ago and baked my first loaf today. First time I ever made artisan bread and it was delish. I made some roasted cauliflower soup to go with it and had a perfect lunch for my husband.
    can’t wait to try another recipe, maybe something with whole grains,
    barb

    • k8: This recipe can’t easily be converted to GF. But more importantly, the all-purpose flour that you mention is NOT gluten-free, it’s high in gluten, like all wheat products. Have you seen our gluten-free recipes in Healthy Bread in Five (click on image above)? Or our GF recipes here on the site, like http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=1396

      • The all purpose is GF (Bob’s red mill) I am trying it today, and I got some of his baking flour, like for biscuits and I will try that if this batch doesn’t work right… wish me luck! first time baking bread that is why I want to try this easy recipe first, four ingredients best ever!

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