I never thought I would see the day when I would become a devout bread maker. It's always been too scientific for me, too labor intensive for the amount of time I have on hand, too many times that all my hard work resulted in a dense block of undesirable bread only fit for the birds.
Well NOT ANYMORE Brothers & Sisters, NOT ANYMORE!!!
My dear friend [email protected] turned me on to a bread book that has changed my attitude and opened up a new world for me. Thanks to Judy, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, I am now a home-school Mom who bakes her own bread. Now, if I only had a denim dress and a couple of goats to milk...
The name of this life changing book? ARTISAN BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.
Anyhoo. Following this book to make bread does take steps, but nothing like the traditional method of making it. I got the hang of it after the first batch. I'm into my fifth batch now and I've already developed a routine that doesn't take anymore time out of my day. I kid you not. I'm so serious and excited with my results that I'm searching to get a second refrigerator to have in the garage just to store a variety of bread doughs.
Let me make this clear so no one feels like this is too good to be true. It takes five minutes to mix the ingredients together. It takes one minute to shape the dough. However, it takes time in between to make it all happen. The great part is that the time happens in the frig & on the counter top. There's no kneading or waiting for the bread to rise for hours on end.
I've learned not to expect the bread for that day, but for a couple a days from now. That part takes patience that is well rewarded in the end.
HERE'S A DELICIOUS EXAMPLE from the bread book
Bran Enriched White Bread
Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (or 2 packets)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 3/4 cup wheat bran
- 5 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- cornmeal for coating surface
- Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast and salt with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
- Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy duty stand mixer (with dough hook). If you're not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
- Allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
- The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 14 days.
- On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on a ll four side, rotating the ball in a quarter-turn as you go. Then form a oval-shaped loaf. Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 40 minutes.
- Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450ºF, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread.
- Sprinkle the loaf liberally with flour and slash parallel cuts across the loaf, using a serrated bread knife. Leave the flour in place for baking; tap some of it off before eating.
- Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 30minutes, until deeply browned and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time.
- Allow to cool before slicing or eating.
Now for my notes:
I use a large popcorn bowl with a foil lid to store my dough in the frig.
Before I got serious with this bread making routine, I used a cookie sheet without sides as my pizza peel. I had to use a pastry knife to ensure that the bread loaves slid off onto the hot baking stone properly. That took pratice but it worked out fine. A few days ago, I bought an inexpensive pizza peel ($9.99) from the Kitchen Collection store. I can't tell you how sweet it was to flick those loaves off into the hot oven. So sweet indeed.
When it's time to make a fresh batch of dough, I don't wash the dough bowl. I will keep it covered so the bits of fermented dough do not dry out while I'm mixing. The book ensures me that keeping the dough bits aids in the flavors of the next batch.
The last batch of dough I made, I forgot to let it sit out at room temperature to rise and fall. I immediately stuck it in the frig. I wasn't planning to make bread for 3 more days. When I did go to bake, the bread turned out as beautiful as the other batches. Shoo!
Finally, I love peppery breads and we are enjoying this recipe with 1/2 tablespoon of pepper mixed in. I didn't have wheat bran available, so I substituted it with instant oat bran hot cereal. The bread just ROCKS!!!
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