Friday, September 25, 2009

Let Them Eat Bread

And eating bread is what we are happily doing since I have madeThe Discovery That Revolutionized Home Baking and started baking Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Now, I would tend to suspect any book which makes such grand claims in its title and subtitle, however some online friends were chatting about the success--and bread--they were enjoying, baking by this new method and I knew that I had to give it a try; even if it took ten minutes a day it would be a worthwhile investment of time and money.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

I was pleasantly surprised--no, make that close to ecstatic--that this book delivers on its claims one hundred percent. The recipe and method couldn't be easier and the bread couldn't be more delicious. Developed by pastry chef and baker, Zoe Francois, and scientist, Jeff Hertzberg, the basic method calls for storing a pre-mixed, high moisture dough--no kneading or rising required. They couldn't be serious! I began with the Master Recipe:

The Master Recipe: Boule (Artisan Free-Form)
(one should master this basic recipe before moving on to all the other great recipes in this book)
Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled.
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt (I use sea salt. Don't use regular table salt--it really does matter.)
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
Cornmeal for the pizza peel--or just a plain baking sheet, which is what I use.

Directions (in my own words)

I mixed the four ingredients in a large Tupperware container* with a wooden spoon--this doesn't even get the mixer or the counter dirty: first put the warm water in a large container and add the yeast and the salt. Add all of the flour and mix thoroughly with a large wooden spoon--my choice, or your hands. Make sure you've mixed in all the little pockets of flour. You don't need to knead the dough--really! The mixed dough should be wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of the container. Loosely cover the container with a lid.

Once the dough rises and and begins to collapse (about one hour in Amman September weather) it can be stored in the refrigerator--still loosely covered-- for up to two weeks (though we bake bread so often that a double batch of dough never lasts more than a couple of days.) The dough is now ready for use, though it is easier to handle after is has been refrigerated for a few hours.

Baking the Bread (again, in my words)

The authors of Artisan Bread recommend using a wooden pizza peel and a baking stone but I have neither and no opportunity to purchase them in Amman so I forged ahead with my trusty metal baking sheets. Not a problem. So, my method varies a little from the book here. I spray my baking sheets lightly with vegetable oil and sprinkle them with cornmeal.

Next, I sprinkle the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour, and with floured hands, pull out a one-pound piece of dough (about the size of a grapefruit). The dough is quite sticky so I continue to add a bit of flour--just enough so that it won't stick to my hands. Then, stretching the dough a bit I gather up the ends of the dough underneath, forming a ball. Don't worry about smoothing up all the underneath ends. This process takes about a minute.

I place the ball of dough on my prepared pan and let it rest for 40 minutes--Hmm, a 40 minute rest sounds nice. 20 minutes into the resting time, I pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F. (Place an empty broiler tray for holding water--mine is under the bottom rack.)

When the dough has rested for 40 minutes I dip a serrated knife into flour and score the loaf. After placing the loaf in the oven I quickly pour a cup of hot water into the boiler pan and shut the oven door to trap the steam. I bake the bread about 30 minutes or until the crust is browned well. I've over-baked a couple of loaves but because the dough is so wet, the bread has never been dry. I cool the bread on a cooling rack but often we are cutting into it before it is completely cooled.

My First Loaves
I've baked a few loaves that didn't turn out quite as beautiful as the ones in these pictures--a couple loaves flattened out a bit more--but the bread quality was just as good as in the pretty ones.

The Master Recipe makes such delicious bread that I haven't yet ventured to try the other wonderful recipes in this book--though I have substituted some whole-wheat flour (5 of the 13 cups) and added ground flax seed and olives**. I had to add a more water to the recipe--about a cup-- when I used whole wheat flour.

Whole Wheat Olive Bread

I've also used the Boule' dough with or without a little olive oil added to the dough to make a pizza crust, with the added benefit of not needing to rest the dough before adding toppings and baking. So, I'm trying to keep sauce and cheese on hand so that a pizza can be in the oven just five to ten minutes after the thought.

For more ideas and recipes, check out the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day site. And, buy the book. You won't regret it. Oh, and buy a big bottle of olive oil for dipping--we haven't used butter on this bread yet.

*The book recommends using a 5 quart container for a single batch of dough. I use a 6.7 liter--about 7 quarts--for a double batch (picture above)
**When I add olives I set the dough down on the oiled baking sheet, flatten it out just a little, sprinkle the olives over the surface, roll it, and form the ball of dough.


Jenny said...

I'm giving this a try!!!!


desert mom said...

Let me know how it turns out, Jenny. I made a loaf the other day from some dough that was about five days old and it baked up kind of flat, but the bread was still delicious and not too dense.

desert mom said...

Let me know how it turns out, Jenny. I made a loaf the other day from some dough that was about five days old and it baked up kind of flat, but the bread was still delicious and not too dense.

Jenny said...

Well, we are sold! This has been the best bread that I have made...ever. I will be asking for the book for Christmas (using the library's copy now) and can't wait to try the other recipes. Thanks for sharing.

desert mom said...

So happy to hear of your bread success, Jenny! I just sent the book to my Mom for her birthday and she said my Dad is already thumbing through it picking out all the recipes he wants her to try.

Debra H. said...

I just made up a double batch of dough today - the book arrived a couple of weeks ago, but I was too chicken to try without the stone etc. Thanks for the inspiration. My container also overflowed, and I had to move it to a bigger one. I love your recipe ideas!