Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bread Baking at Its Best: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

I've always enjoyed the taste of artisan bread and baking it is my way of relaxing. My father had baked bread when my sister and I were growing up and it became a hobby of mine in my early 20's. Since then, I have pursued various methods, such as kneading by hand, bread machine and, now, the no-knead method recommended by authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois in their book:

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I ordered the book as soon as I saw it in The Good Cook's advertisement to its cook book club members. The premise is by spending time in small increments you can have fresh bread pretty much whenever you want it.

First, you mix up a batch of dough -- I make enough for two loaves and have fiddled around with the author's basic recipe to make it just perfect for us. I like my loaves a little larger, so for two loaves I grab a 17 c. capacity Tupperware container and pour in 2 c. slightly warmed water. Then I add 1 T. yeast and 1 T. kosher salt (this is important: regular salt is denser and makes it way too salty, at least for our taste) and give it a stir. It doesn't matter if all the yeast doesn't dissolve. Then I dump in 1 c. all purpose flour and 3 c. bread flour, measured by the "sprinkling" method rather than the "dip and sweep" method and stir it until it is all combined. It will look kind of raggedy, like the picture above.

This is what it looks like after it sits out on the counter for about 3-5 hours, depending on the season of the year. Less time for summer; more for winter....

Once it is to this stage, the lid goes on (I leave a corner up so that the lid doesn't blow off because of accumulated fermentation) and the container goes in the refrigerator. It can stay there for as many as 14 days, adding a sourdough type of flavor as it ages.

Then a couple of hours before I want to bake, I take the dough out -- half if I'm baking one loaf, all of it if I'm baking both, like I am above. If just one loaf is needed, the container goes back in the refrigerator until I need it again. I form the loaves in my hands with lots of flour so that it doesn't stick to me and then put it on a silicone sheet on top of a wooden peel to rest.

If I have emptied it, I don't wash the container -- just start over with more ingredients. This incorporates the leftover bits of dough on the sides of the container and makes the next batch a little more sour. It also means that there is always dough on hand ready to be baked.

The dough doesn't rise much at this stage, but I leave it about two hours, starting my oven at the 1-1/2 hour mark. Giving the oven a 30 minute preheat at 425 F. thoroughly heats the large flat stoneware (I guess they are known as pizza stones? Mine is rectangular, not round) so that when I slide the loaves in, it's all ready to go. As the authors recommend for this method, I also put a broiler pan under the stone and that preheats as well.

For this particular batch, the loaves were floured and slashed before they went in the oven. Once I had the loaves, silicone sheet and all, in the oven, I add about a cup of water to the preheated broiler pan and shut the oven door. This creates the steam to make a really great crust.

These are the loaves as they came out of the oven. I made two sizes, one to serve for dinner and the other to keep for breakfast and lunch the next day.

I have made some alterations to their basic recipes, but I would most definitely recommend this book. There are about 100 recipes in it using this no-knead, refrigerated dough method. They have also come out with a second book, Healthy Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I have purchased that book, but not baked from it yet.

Always willing to share my hobbies!


  1. what a great review! thanks so much.. I think I will have to put this book on my christmas list. I have tried artisan bread before, but it really took a bit of time...this sounds great!

  2. so super!! I am interested in book 2.. do you think I should get both their books Paula?


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