More bread

Aaah.  How good it feels to dump a bad mood.  I successfully got over my slump of yesterday.  My combination of techniques included:

– using my Dr. Burns triple-column technique,

– the luck of my daughter going to bed around 7:30 (she hadn’t napped in the day), giving me a whole evening of “me” time.  I think this had been lacking since I’ve been super tired and went to bed with her at 9:30 at least 3 nights this week.

– baking cookies and tidying the house (which I find very therapeutic), and

– rolling coins while watching the Futurama movie.  Yes, I find rolling coins soothing, which is incredibly geeky of me, I know, and almost *too much* in keeping with my frugal personality.  Anyway, 32 painless dollars for the college fund!

Okay, on to the bread.

I’ve now made 3 batches of the “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”, and I’m totally into it!  My sourdough starter is languishing in the fridge meanwhile, and won’t get much play until I figure out a way to marry the two techniques.

My copy of the book also came in at the library, so I have a few more tips to share. Also, my colleague attempted the previous recipe and had her questions. It immediately became clear to me that I had written the recipe for people well-versed in artisan bread-making, and Peter Reinhart’s writings in particular.

So here is a revised version of the recipe, with notes for making it in loaf pans instead of as free-formed boules.  That’s how I’ve been making it for the last 2 batches, and I’ve been doing 2 big loaves at a time and freezing one, thereby cutting down on the oven time.  (Sure, it’s nice to have fresh artisan bread every day, but I don’t really like running my oven at 450 degrees for an hour every day. Seems like a big waste of energy unless that daily fresh bread is *really* important to you.)

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: Master Recipe (revised to be more reader-friendly)

6 1/2 cups (32.5 oz) white all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tbsp yeast

1 1/2 tbsp coarse salt

3 cups lukewarm water

In a large food-safe container, stir together the dry ingredients and then mix in the water.  Stir until everything is hydrated–no dry spots–and then let it sit out for 2-5 hours, covered but not air-tight.  If you put together a new batch right away after finishing your old batch, you can use the goopy bits from inside your bowl or tupperware, without washing, and this will add flavour to your next batch, essentially “aging” it.  Just add your water first, scrape down the bowl, dissolve the yeast and salt in the water, and then mix in the flour a small amount at a time to form a soft dough.

Stick in the fridge at least overnight.  2 hours before you want to bake, cut off a “grapefruit-sized ball” with a serrated knife.  Form into a boule with a nice rounded shape and a tight surface.  Here are some very helpful pictures that guide you through this process.  One teacher I had describes the boule as a balloon.  You have to create a “skin” on the loaf that will trap the CO2 so the loaf rises.  If the skin is not tight, it will not “inflate” the balloon.  Make sure you pinch the dough together really well at the bottom to keep it tight & sealed up.

Let your loaf sit either in a pan (lined with parchment or it will stick) or on a cutting board or cookie sheet sprinkled liberally with cornmeal or coarse-ground flour for 2 hours.  After an hour and a half, start pre-heating your oven to 450 degrees F with a baking stone inside (I use upside-down ceramic tiles that I found in my closet when I moved in to this apartment.  I just didn’t put anything directly on them for the first couple months I used them–just in case).  Also put in an oven-safe metal pan–cast iron works well–some place where it will not interfere with your loaves.

At the 2 hour mark, slash your loaf with either an X-Acto blade, or a sharp serrated bread knife.  This will allow your loaf to rise in the oven without getting any weird lumps or formations to it.  Then, quickly stick it in the oven, pour about a cup of boiling water into your steam pan, and close the oven door.  Let it bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the loaf so it gets even cooking.  Leave it for another 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how big your loaf is.  (If it’s one grapefruit-sized loaf, check it after 30 minutes; if you do the whole batch like I do, it can probably do more than an hour, with the temperature turned down to 350 after 4o minutes).

It is done when the crust is nicely browned and it gives a lovely hollow sound when you knock on the bottom of the loaf.

I just discovered that Peter Reinhart’s bread books are available almost in their entirety, on Google Books.  God, I love Google Books.  These books are amazing references for bread baking techniques.

You can find my favourite here:

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (you can also search the text of the book so if there is any technique you are curious about, just enter the search term in the sidebar search.  Amazing!!).

Please let me know if you try this bread, or if you have any other questions about the technique.

Also, please share your method if you have figured out how to do “Artisan Sourdough in Five Minutes a Day”!

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4 thoughts on “More bread

  1. Update: It worked great! I did two loaves on a cookie sheet, free-form boules, and they rose pretty nicely. They were done within 30 minutes, even with two (that’s the halved recipe, btw). I put sea salt, rosemary and olives on one and would definitely embellish like that again – though the plain one is divine with homemade jam. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the update Jordan! Great idea with the rosemary, olives & sea salt. I might try that too, to use up some olives I have kicking around.

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