Friday, May 23, 2008

Yes, You Really Can Bake Bread



I learned about the relatively new baking book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, from one of my favorite blogs, Angry Chicken. The title of the book isn't misleading: Once you mix up a big batch of dough, baking a loaf of wonderful bread takes literally less than five minutes of hands-on time.

Here's the concept: You make enough dough for about three or four round loaves of bread. The dough is wetter than dough I've made in the past, and it doesn't require kneading -- just combining a few ingredients (water, salt, flour, yeast, plus some extras based on the recipe). Making the dough takes me less than 10 minutes using a stand mixer. It would likely take a bit longer by hand, but not inordinately so. This makes a lot of dough. I store mine, covered with plastic wrap, in a big yellow Pyrex bowl that my mom received as a wedding gift in 1955.

Then, after the dough has chilled a bit, you just pull off a hunk, spend about 15 seconds forming it into a ball, slash the top, and let it rise for 20 or 40 minutes, depending on the bread. Then bake it. The hunk of dough can stay in the fridge for two weeks, and my experience is that it just gets better tasting the longer it sits. The recipes say that the batch will make four loaves, but I find three is more accurate for my baking.

Since I got the book a month or so ago (using an Amazon gift certificate, so no money was spent), I've made a white batch and a wheat batch of bread. Both were fantastic. I made one loaf of the white dough into an olive loaf using a half-empty jar of black olives that were shoved in the back of the fridge. The wheat bran bread was especially good -- great toasted and spread with PB. The loaves aren't completely like one you would get in a little French bistro, but they're better than any other homemade bread I've made, and they resemble and largely taste like the $4 loaves at a local sandwich shop.

The book has been a bestseller, so most libraries will stock it. Once you read the intro and understand the technique, the basic recipe is easy to memorize. Unless you're looking to make lots of variations, like sweet rolls, you wouldn't need to buy the book after spending a little time with a library copy. I'm not sorry to own it, and some day will try some of the more involved recipes, but for now am happy to be able to make bread cheaply and quickly that tastes fantastic. If you're interested in learning more, the authors keep up a nice website at http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/.

Following my first week back to work -- and it was a doozy, with computer problems, major work projects, and a nasty bout of food poisoning -- we're off to see my family in Michigan for my niece's high school graduation. Where does the time go? Seems she was just a toddler. Have a fantastic, long holiday weekend!

1 comment:

Hooked on Houses said...

This post has me hankering for fresh-baked bread now. Sounds delish.

Hope you had a nice time at the graduation and that this week at work is better than the last was for you! Sounds like it was pretty harrowing. -Julie