This is not a quick bread, this is a real artisan apple bread with fresh apples. 12-hour starter, knead, rise, fold in apples, rise again, bake, give it a bite and fly to heaven! In that order.
This is one of the most delicious breads I have baked so far. Artisan bread is BY FAR the best bread in the world. Homemade brings it to another level. Mix in some fresh apples and you fly to heaven when you taste it. O EM GEEE!!
Ok, so, is it easy to make artisan apple bread? Ummmm, let’s say it’s not difficult. There are several steps that need extra attention but in this post I will walk you through ALLLLL the steps one step at a time so you end up with the best bread you’ve tried in your life, pinky finger promise. Are you ready?
How to activate yeast and ensure artisan bread dough rises
Proof your yeast
I cannot stress this more. I just wasted 1.5 kg of flour over the weekend trying to succeed in the bread-making business. If you proof your yeast first you don’t risk waisting flour. If your dough doesn’t rise it’s because your yeast was not properly activated or worse, you killed it. Awww, poor yeast :(
How to proof yeast
Add yeast to a bowl and then add warm water. Now here is the first tricky part. The water has to be “warm”. What does “warm” mean? About 100F (38 C). Use a thermometer, if you don’t have one for food, use your body temperature thermometer. If you don’t have that either, use your elbow. It should be warm like water you would bathe a baby in, milk you would give a baby in a bottle. If you have nothing to do with babies and don’t know what kind of warm is meant by that, well, warm like your own pee ;)
The end result after about 10 minutes is foamy, bubbly, yeast-smelling water. If it doesn’t foam and bubble, toss it. Your bread won’t rise. I will come out dense and heavy and maybe even uncooked in the end. Do not waste your flour. Start over again. Remember it’s just 10 minutes.
Now, how come yeast doesn’t foam or bubble sometimes? There are 3 reasons for things going wrong. One, the yeast expired -> buy another one. Two, the water was too hot or too cold -> use a thermometer to make sure the temperature is right. Three your tap water is no bueno (too much chlorine or bacteria can kill your yeast) -> Use bottled water.
Prepare a starter
Breads made with starters taste so so so so so so (that’s not enough ‘so’s but you get the point) much more delicious than other breads. AND, the bread dough rises beautifully with a starter. Prepare a starter. Just do it, will you? Mix that foamy, bubbly, yeasty water with the flour required by the recipe, cover and leave at room temperature for at least 12 hours, max 18 hours. The next day you will start your bread-making process like you would any bread without a starter. Making a starter takes 12-ish minutes. Make that starter the day before. You will get the most perfect result. The best ever apple bread with fresh apples you have tried in your life. Promise.
After 12 hours of leaving the flour and proofed yeast in a bowl covered with a kitchen towel at room temperature it should look like this (if it doesn’t you didn’t proof your yeast, naughty you!).
How to achieve dense but airy Artisan Bread
Artisan bread requires several rises. The quicker a bread is to make the lighter and cakier (is that a word?) it will be. Basically, less time and less rises equal less deliciousness in my opinion. This apple bread calls for a 12-hour rise of the starter and then another two 45-minute rises. Remember, you don’t have to do absolutely anything while the bread is rising. Making bread is a long process BUT requires only minutes of actual work in between rising/resting time. In total it will take maybe 10 minutes of you actively doing something.
Knead the starter and remaining flour the recipe calls for in the stand mixer with dough hook attached for a good 20 minutes on low. You can do this part by hand but it will be VERY messy and tiring. I don’t recommend doing this by hand but rather borrow a stand mixer if you don’t have one. The dough should be very sticky and elastic (left photo). Cover it with a clean kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature for 45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size (right photo).
When and how to add fresh apples to Artisan Apple Bread
After the first rise it’s time to fold in the fresh apples. I recommend adding the apples this late in the process to avoid fermentation. If you add the apples in earlier it will ferment and make the dough pretty sour. I wonder also, if the dough would even rise the first time due to the weight of the apples. It’s best to let the dough rise first, then add apples, then rise again.
Sprinkle about 1/3 or 1/4 of the apple pieces on top. Fold the dough over. Sprinkle again. Fold over again. And so on and so forth until all apple is folded into the dough. By then the dough reduced in size again. Tadaaa, the photos for how to add fresh apples to Artisan Apple Bread:
You can leave the dough in the same bowl for the second rise but I prefer dumping it into another parchment paper lined bowl for easier and risk-free transfer into the burning hot dutch oven later. It’s so much easier to lift the dough out with the parchment paper and then turn around and dump in the dutch oven. I guess you could even dump it in just like that with the parchment paper at the bottom. I prefer to remove. Just in case. So it doesn’t stick? Anyway. I dump it into a parchment paper lined bowl, cover with the kitchen towel again and let it rise a second time for about 45 minutes. 15 minutes into the second rise I turn on the oven with the dutch oven inside for it to heat up properly.
Before and after rise photo:
Dutch oven vs. no dutch oven when making bread
There are two reasons artisan apple bread or any artisan bread really will form a dome. One, the bread dough is given enough opportunities to rise. Two, the bread dough is baked in strong heat coming from all directions. Most of us have regular ovens. Heat from the top and heat from the bottom. That’s it. Regular home ovens do not emit heat from all around. Bakeries have special ovens. Many of their ovens are stone ovens where the stone retains all the heat and radiates it back to the whole surface of the bread.
The only way to “imitate” this is by using a dutch oven. I’ve tried with a oven-proof stainless steel pot with oven-proof glass lid and … it doesn’t work. Stainless steel doesn’t “store” heat. It becomes hot, yes, but as soon as you take it out of the oven to dump in the bread dough, it immediately starts cooling down. A cast-iron pot keeps the heat for muuuuch longer. Enough time for you to dump in the dough, put the lid back on and transfer back in the oven without it cooling down even 1 degree.
Now, if you don’t have a dutch oven, don’t go run and buy one. They are quite pricey. Ask around if someone can borrow you theirs (<- that’s what I did by the way. Thank you Sophie! :) OR if nobody can borrow you one just use your cast iron pan (I’ve done that before with this No-Knead Bread). If you don’t have either, use a baking sheet. Your bread will not produce a beautiful dome. It will for sure still taste absolutely amazing though.
One important tip: be really, really, really, really, really, really careful when taking the dutch oven out of the oven. It will be BURNING HOT! Use very thick silicone oven gloves or double up your regular cloth gloves. The burns you get from a hot dutch oven are unbelievably painful. All concentration is required here. Don’t multitask at this point. Do only ONE thing. Keep your eyes only on the oven and your body parts.
Artisan Apple Bread cooling instructions
This point is also very important. Once the bread is baked you have to remove it from the dutch oven (carefully, remember it’s hot!). Since the dutch oven retains a lot of heat for an extended amount of time it’s crucial to remove the bread so it doesn’t continue baking. Otherwise it will become very hard. Turn the dutch oven over so the apple bread falls out. It will immediately and easily fall out. There is no way bread dough will stick to a burning hot cast iron pot or pan. If it sticks, you didn’t heat it up enough time (as I suggested further up) naughty you ;)
Place the freshly baked artisan apple bread on a cooling rack and wait for it to COMPLETELY cool down before cutting into it. If you cut into hot bread all the steam escapes and the center stays “doughy”. The bread needs to cool down slowly for the steam to do it’s work on the inside of the apple bread.
How to store Artisan Apple Bread
I can’t believe you’ve made it this far reading. Congratulations. Now it’s time to finally, finally break apart a piece of this masterpiece of apple bread.
Don’t use a knife. Use your hands. Eat an uneven piece. It tastes so much better that way. Eat your first piece just like that. You can eat the second with butter or dunked into soup. Eat the first piece just plain.
Once you ate all your could eat it’s time to store it. If you think you will finish the bread the next day I recommend storing it in a paper bag on the kitchen counter. That way it stays crispy. However, bread dries out by the end of day two. If you know you won’t be able to finish it by day two I recommend storing it in a paper bag and then plastic bag on top and tie a tight knot then store in the fridge. Since this Artisan Apple Bread contains fresh apples it shouldn’t be stored on the kitchen counter for too many days. Store it in the fridge from day 2 onward.
Phew. Are you ready to make bread now? Check the shorter version of all instructions further down in the recipe card.