Homemade Artisan Bread (With or Without Dutch Oven)

Even if you’ve never made homemade bread or worked with yeast before, this homemade crusty artisan bread is for you. It’s the perfect beginner recipe because it only requires 4 ingredients without any special pans or mixer, there’s no kneading or complicated shaping involved, and 95% of the work is hands-off. Bread masters will appreciate this recipe too because it delivers with delicious flavor, a slightly crisp and mega chewy crust, and those signature soft holes inside like ciabatta or French bread.

homemade artisan french bread

Bread Beginners– Start Here

Have you ever wanted to master homemade bread? Real, crusty, chewy, delicious bakery-style loaves that taste incredible with dips, soups, sauces, and comforting dinners? This recipe is where you start. This artisan bread is for beginners, but even bread masters will appreciate its flavor and ease. It’s so fresh, so flavorful, and so surprisingly easy because it basically makes itself.

You only need 4 ingredients without any special pans or mixer, there’s no kneading, no poolish or dough starter required, and you can add herbs, cheeses, and spices to make a variety of bread flavors.

This base recipe will soon be on repeat in your kitchen. After you realize how easy it is to make real homemade bread, you’ll find any excuse to bake a loaf.

homemade artisan bread loaves

What is Homemade Artisan Bread?

When it comes to bread, the term “artisan” doesn’t mean 1 particular thing. But generally, artisan bread is homemade, fresh, crusty, and deliciously rustic looking. An artisan is a skilled worker, one who works with their hands. But ironically, there isn’t much “work” involved with this recipe.

Why You’ll Love This Bread

  • Easier than you ever imagined
  • Soft + flavorful
  • Chewy, slightly crisp crust
  • Shape however you want
  • No special pans, poolish, or dough starter required
  • Only 4 ingredients
  • You decide the length of time it rests

homemade artisan french bread loaves

Homemade Artisan Bread Video Tutorial

Like sandwich bread, focaccia, and bagels— the process is surprisingly easy. If you’re new to yeast, reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.

Only 4 Ingredients

The crustier and chewier the bread, the less fat in the dough– also known as a “lean dough.” We’re using a lean dough for our artisan loaf today. (If you’re curious, a “rich dough” is a soft bread dough with the presence of fat, such as butter and eggs– the kind we need for overnight cinnamon rolls.) Without fat, we’re left with the basics.

  1. Bread Flour: While you can use all-purpose flour in this recipe, I strongly recommend using bread flour. Bread flour produces a stronger, chewier bread and that makes a big difference in recipe with only 3 other ingredients.
  2. Instant Yeast: Instant yeast is key in this recipe. While you can use active dry if that’s all you have, any quick rise or instant yeast will produce flavorful results in less time. I use more yeast in this recipe compared to my cranberry nut no-knead bread and no-knead jalapeño cheddar bread. Why? Those doughs rest and rise at room temperature. However, for more flavor and just as much rise, I use more yeast and let the this dough rest in the refrigerator. (Cool air slows the fermentation process.)
  3. Salt: You can’t make good bread without salt and for best flavor, I recommend a coarse salt, such as coarse sea salt. I find the bread’s flavor lacking with regular table salt.
  4. Water: I normally encourage you to use warm liquid with yeast because warm liquid helps the yeast work faster. However, use cool or room temperature water here. Not freezing cold, not super warm– cool to touch. 70°F (21°C) is great, but the exact temperature doesn’t matter as long as it’s not hot or warm. The cooler the water, the longer the dough takes to rise and, usually, the better the bread’s flavor. (This is important since there are so little ingredients to add substantial flavor!)
  5. Optional Cornmeal: Dusting the pan with cornmeal adds a pop of flavor and a little crunch to the bottom crust. This is completely optional. If you have it, use it. If you don’t have it, don’t worry about it.

You can also add herbs and seasonings such as garlic, rosemary, dill, chopped onion, jalapeño, shredded cheese, chopped nuts, dried cranberries, etc. My no yeast bread is the quick bread alternative here– you can add flavors to that loaf, too!

homemade artisan bread dough in a bowl

collage of 2 artisan bread dough images

Baker’s Tip: Avoid adding too much flour to the dough as you work with it. The stickier it is– and the longer it sits in the refrigerator– the more likely you’ll have those big airy pockets of air in the crumb.

shaped artisan bread dough before baking

How to Make Homemade Artisan Bread in 5 Steps

  1. Mix the dough ingredients together. At first the dough will seem very dry and shaggy and you’ll question if it will even come together. But it will. Use a spatula at first, then switch to your hands to ensure all of the flour is moistened. The dough is actually a little sticky after it’s thoroughly mixed.
  2. Let it rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Cover the dough and let it rise at room temperature for about 2-3 hours until doubled in size.
  3. Use right away or refrigerate. After 2-3 hours, you can immediately continue with the next step. However, for ideal flavor and texture, I strongly recommend letting the dough sit in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days. Yes, 3 full days! I usually only let it rest for about 18 hours. During this crucial step, the cold air slows the fermentation process and adds so much flavor and texture. So, you can bake bread in 2-3 hours or in 3 days. The longer it sits, the better it tastes. 🙂
  4. Shape into 2 loaves or 1 boule. Rest as oven preheats. You can shape the bread into a round loaf (boule) or two longer loaves. I usually make 2 longer loaves side-by-side on a flat baking sheet, about 9×3 inches each. Score with a sharp knife or bread lame. Preheat the oven to a very hot 475°F (246°C). The extremely hot air will immediately set the crust so the bread rises up instead of spreading all over. To help ensure a crispier crust, after the oven pre-heats– pour boiling water into a metal or cast iron baking pan/dish on the bottom oven rack. Immediately place the dough inside and shut the oven door to trap the steam. The steam will help create that coveted crisp crust. If you have a dutch oven, shape the dough into 1 round loaf, and bake it inside the dutch oven with the lid on.
  5. Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Gently tap the loaves because if they sound hollow, they’re done.

Look at those deliciously soft holes inside! Reminds me of ciabatta or a French baguette, both of which can be a little more complicated to make.

slices of homemade artisan french bread

slices of homemade artisan french bread on a plate

Serve Artisan Bread With

  1. Slather with homemade honey butter
  2. Slice and dunk in crab dip, beer cheese dip, or roasted garlic bacon spinach dip
  3. Serve alongside slow cooker chicken chili or pumpkin chili
  4. As a dunker for minestrone soup or creamy chicken noodle soup
  5. With a big bowl of mac & cheese
  6. Use for my goat cheese & honey crostini
  7. With anything because homemade bread is everything’s best friend
Print
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homemade artisan bread loaves

Homemade Artisan Bread (With or Without Dutch Oven)

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 4 hours
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 25 minutes
  • Yield: 2 8-inch loaves
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Even if you’ve never made homemade bread or worked with yeast before, this homemade artisan bread is for you. Watch the video tutorial above and review the recipe instructions and recipe notes prior to beginning. If you’re new to working with yeast, reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.


Ingredients

  • 3 and 1/4 cups (423g) bread flour (spoon & leveled), plus more for hands and pan
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt (see note)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) cool water
  • optional: cornmeal for dusting pan

Instructions

  1. In a large un-greased mixing bowl, whisk the flour, yeast, and salt together. Pour in the cool 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 (as I do in the video tutorial above) to work the dough ingredients together. The dough will be sticky. Shape into a ball in the bowl as best you can.
  2. Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and set on the counter at room temperature (honestly any normal room temperature is fine!). 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.
  3. You can continue with step 4 immediately, but for absolute best flavor and texture, I strongly recommend letting this risen dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days. Place covered dough in the refrigerator for 12 hours – 3 days. I usually let it rest in the refrigerator for about 18 hours. 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.
  4. Lightly dust a large nonstick baking sheet (with or without rims and make sure it’s nonstick) with flour and/or cornmeal. Turn the cold 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. See recipe note if you want to use a pizza stone.
  5. During this 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 475°F (246°C).
  6. When ready to bake, using a very sharp knife or bread lame (some even use kitchen shears), score the bread loaves with 3 slashes, about 1/2 inch deep. (“Score” = shallow cut.) If the shaped loaves flattened out during the 45 minutes, use floured hands to narrow them out along the sides again.
  7. 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 (I usually use a metal 9×13 baking pan) 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes 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.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. Flour: For absolute best flavor and chewy texture, I strongly recommend using bread flour. You can use a 1:1 substitution of all-purpose flour in a pinch with no other changes to the recipe. I recommend avoiding whole wheat flour in this dough. If necessary, use half bread flour and half whole wheat flour. The bread will taste a bit dense.
  3. Yeast: You can use instant or active dry yeast, but I highly recommend an instant (aka “rapid rise” or “quick rise” yeast). The bread will rise faster. I usually use Platinum yeast by Red Star, which is an instant yeast. 2 teaspoons is a little less than 1 standard packet. If using active dry yeast, there are no changes needed to the recipe. The rise time in step 2 may take longer.
  4. Salt: Use a coarse salt, such as coarse sea salt, in this bread. I find the flavor slightly lacking when using regular table fine salt. If you only have fine salt, reduce to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. If you want to bake the boule in a dutch oven, see next note.
  7. Using a Dutch Oven: Follow this dough recipe through step 3, then follow the simple shaping/baking instructions (steps 2-5) in my Cranberry Nut No Knead Bread recipe including using the parchment paper. If your parchment paper can’t withstand heat this high, you can either lower the oven temperature and bake the bread for longer or grease the dutch oven instead.
  8. Using a pizza stone: If you want to bake your bread loaves on a pizza stone, place pizza stone in the preheating oven. Transfer shaped and scored loaves to hot pizza stone and bake as directed.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
  12. Recipe adapted from King Arthur FlourRed Star Yeast, similar method originally from Jim Lahey.

Keywords: bread, loaf

1081 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. This looks delicious — I’m excited to kick off the New Year with this challenge!

    I’m relatively new to baking with yeast, so I only have active dry yeast. If I let the active dry yeast bloom in lukewarm water before starting the recipe, would I have to reduce the amount of cool water?

    1. Hi Joanna! Most active dry yeasts these days are already active, so you don’t have to proof it in water before using. Just add to the flour as directed.

  2. I can’t wait to make this! What brand of salt do you use? Thanks!

    1. Hi Sally! I typically use Morton brand coarse sea salt.

  3. Just started my bread! I measured everything into 2 bowls (exactly 1/2 the amount of everything into 2 bowls) – 1 bowl plain and 1 bowl with extra sharp white cheddar and jalapeño!

  4. This is the most flexible type of bread. I bake one similar to this one and bake it in cake pans. Then freeze the baked rounds . Pull them out of the freezer and thaw in the oven just on the rack on low temp about 10-15 minutes. Serve with soups, chili, whatever. The low temp thawing brings back the crust to chewy.

  5. I live in a basement apartment where the room temperature runs on the cooler side. I’ve heard that to help the dough rise in a cooler temp, you can put it in the oven, set at 100 F and it’ll rise perfectly there.

    Is that something you recommend I do, and if so, should I try the 2-3 hours you suggest in the recipe or less?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Kat! You can, yes, but for best results with this particular dough, I don’t recommend speeding up the rise time. Just let your dough rise at that room temperature. It may take a little longer than 3 hours. Use instant yeast.

  6. Will it be ok to use one yeast packet? As you say each packet has 2-1/4 tsp and your recipe says 2 tsp?

    1. Stick with only 2 teaspoons. I recommend saving that extra 1/4 teaspoon for another time.

  7. are the weights correct? If it is, this hydration is something like 90% which is very hard to handle. Most breads I bake are in the ballpark of 60-66%, with sourdoughs getting to the 70-80% range (and increasingly hard to handle). Bagels I have baked are more in the 55% range (weight of water compared to flour)

    1. Yes. The higher hydration lends a pretty sticky dough that bakes up with an airy interior with large holes, just like ciabatta or focaccia. There isn’t too much handling/shaping of the dough and when you are working with it, flour your hands.

    2. Can I mix this in my Kitchen Aid mixer instead of a bowl?, and on what speed?

      1. Sure can. Mix the dough on low speed with the dough hook.

  8. This worked…thanks Sally!

  9. Could this recipe be used to make crusty rolls?

    1. Absolutely! You could shape them like I do my soft dinner rolls and bake separately on a baking sheet OR in a baking pan. I would bake them separately so they remain crisp around all the edges. Use a lot of flour on your hands and work surface since this dough is sticky.

  10. How cool is cool water. Could you provide a temperature range. I haven’t made bread before. Thanks.

    1. Hi Laurel! 70°F (21°C) would be great.

      1. Thanks for very quick reply!!!

  11. I’m going to try this with rosemary, parmesan and roasted garlic. Your pictures are beautiful.

  12. Hi Sally! I have made a LOT of artisan bread, and I’ve always kept mine on the counter, away from drafts. Always 18 hours. I’ve also kept it in the microwave for the 18 hours. I’ve never heard of sticking it in the fridge! We like ours with nothing added. I made a few loafs for my sister, and she said her boyfriend couldn’t stop eating it! I’ll give your recipe a try! They really are foolproof, aren’t they?? Haaha

  13. This looks delicious! I’ll have to try it sometime this month 🙂 Happy New Year, Sally!

  14. I was just wondering do you let it rise at room temp for the 3 hours then put it in the fridge or do you go right in to the fridge for the 12hour to 3 days and skip the 3 hours rise at room temp? Thanks

    1. Yep! Rise for 3 hours, then the refrigerator.

  15. Made this recipe this morning and my husband and I ate it for lunch! It was delicious and I will definitely make again! I only had enough time to do the 3 hour rise and the texture was close and not as airy as yours looked in the photos. Is that because of the short rising time and not resting in the fridge – or did something else cause that? Thanks! This recipe is a keeper!

    1. So glad you already tried and loved it! Yes, the texture was different without the extended time in the refrigerator. The longer, the better. Also, keep the dough as sticky as you can which helps develop those airy pockets.

      1. Thanks for the feedback!
        I also had another question about the color of the bread crust. Mine was much paler than yours. I’m not sure it needed much more time in the oven. Any thoughts? Thanks!

      2. Hi Janet! I like my crust extra browned, so just keep yours in the oven a little longer to really brown the crust.

  16. Can I bake the bread on a silicone baking mat?

    1. You can, yes! You can add flour and/or cornmeal to the surface of the mat too.

  17. I love all of your recipes. You recipes are simple for moms like me who have standard ingredients and utensils. Every recipe I’ve made from your website seems foolproof and gets devoured by my family. I appreciate that you made this recipe without a Dutch oven or pizza stone. I adore this website so much!

  18. SO EXCITED to start New Year’s Day with a yummy comforting bread! I’ve made so many of your recipes! I’ve never made time for one of your challenges and I’m excited to try it this time around!!! I am an avid baker and so excited to try this! My bread is on the counter and rising as we speak!! I am going to let it sit until tomorrow like you’ve suggested. Thank you!!!

    1. Just wanted to update! Baked this about 1 hour ago and it turned out AMAZING! All the smells and it tastes delicious! Will for sure be a new rotation for my family! We love homemade bread!!

      1. LOVE reading this, Stacy! Glad you were able to participate in your first baking challenge AND that this recipe will be part of your family’s regular rotation! 🙂

  19. Super simple! Made it this morning with my 3yo! Little sticker than I was expecting but delish!

  20. Cheryl Ludden says:

    This recipe is awesome!! Made 1/ regular 1/2 jalapeño cheddar. Very good & simple recipe!!! Will definitely make again!!

  21. Is it okay to halve this recipe? Thank you very much!

    1. Absolutely. Rise time + rest times are the same. Bake the loaf until golden brown.

  22. Delicious! This was my first time making any kind of bread so I didn’t have much confidence, but I am super impressed! I added minced garlic and a tblspn of dried rosemary and only let it rest for 3 hours. I can’t wait to mix it up and try some other flavors.

  23. I just couldn’t wait and had to bake this today to go with chowder for dinner. It turned out perfect! Chewy and slightly crunchy, but not so much that you hurt your mouth. I’ll definitely be making more and am excited to see the difference a longer proof time makes.

    1. Thrilled that you loved this recipe, Tara! Thanks for your positive feedback 🙂

  24. Hi Sally. Happy New year. Would this be the right dough for those homemade bread bowls that restaurants serve chowder in? also would it be the right dough for garlic bread? I want to try a homemade garlic bread because I served a store bought frozen bread and the flavor was not good.

    1. Hi Barb! You could definitely make garlic bread from this recipe. For bread bowls, follow my homemade bread bowls recipe.

  25. Hi Sally
    Just made this bread, followed recipe exactly, including boiling water for crispy crust. Although beautiful crust, seems a little doughy? I let it rise for 12 hours in fridge, any ideas?
    Joan

    1. Hi Joan! Thanks for trying this bread recipe. It sounds like the bread wasn’t completely cooked through. It’s soft, but shouldn’t be doughy or seem under-cooked in the interior.

      1. My oven may be on hot side as it was browned beautifully. Thank you and will try again. Love your recipes!

  26. I didn’t get the signature holes what could be the reason?

    1. Hi Carrie! All loaves bake up differently. My bread in the video wasn’t as hole-y as the pictured loaf I made the day earlier! See my Baker’s Tip in the post for a little help. Avoid adding too much flour to the dough as you work with it. The stickier it is– and the longer it sits in the refrigerator– the more likely you’ll have those big airy pockets of air in the crumb.

      1. Whitney Newman says:

        This happened to me too! Thanks for the tips!

      2. Karen Peterson says:

        Mine didn’t have the same holes either and I left mine in the fridge for 2 days but I do think my dough was a bit dry when I first mixed it. Not as wet as the picture showed. Will have to try again as this was so simple and my family loved the bread. Perfect with minestrone!!

  27. Mary Harrington says:

    What is “poolish” mentioned in line 5 below “Why you’ll love this bread”?

    1. Hi Mary! Poolish is a wet sponge mixture used to help pre-ferment dough in some bread recipes.

  28. Thank you so much for this recipe. I’ve made many artisan breads in the Dutch oven. You gave me the courage to try the pizza stone – I have 2 small stones so made 2 small loaves – placed the dough on parchment paper on the stone.

  29. wow! I love to bake and I use your recipes ALL the time. I didn’t think I could bake bread that could look and taste as good as this but I did! Thank you so much! Another great recipe to add to my collection.

  30. Robin Michaels says:

    Delicious! Love the crispy crust!

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