Monday, February 15, 2010

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day - Review and Master Recipe

Wait! Before I delve into a long love story about the bread above, I just want to say that I couldn't muster up the energy to make another batch of blueberry muffins. I tried. I bought the blueberries and everything....they went moldy. Let's just say, we were blueberry muffined out and nothing, not even the allure of content for this here blog, could make me bake more. Besides, Round 2 totally won and I declare them the undefeated champion until I feel like making blueberry muffins again. Or, blueberry anything. Don't'll happen soon.

Now, what you've come here to hear about... The bread. The wonderous, crackly bounty of your fantasies. My fantasies include a river of nutella and a visit from Legends of the Fall era Brad Pitt. Who's with me? Oh, yes. The bread...

In the time it took me to ramble on and the time it took you to seriously consider going to do the dishes, you could have been well on your way to artisan bread thanks to the science and craft of Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois and their book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I swear, I've been carrying around this thing like a bible.

I've craved the crackle ever since our first trip across the pond and haven't been able to satisfy my urges to slather butter and aged cheese on a worthy recipient. France has us whooped in the baking department and I just can't handle grocery store bread anymore. Except, I've been forced to do so...either that or shell out 6-8 bucks for a good quality boule which also requires a drive to the city. NO MORE, I SAY.

I made two loaves in two days and it's all because this one genuis idea... you can store high moisture dough in the fridge for over a week. Yes, you can.

I read the master recipe on Ivory Hut and gave it a go only to realize I needed to financially support the wonderment and buy the whole book. The end product is not much different in taste than my previous bread making attempt but it's all about the texture and aging. I find this method to give me crisper crust, chewier crumb, and more depth in flavor as the week progresses. I will now share the master recipe with you in the hopes that you can discover a life filled with baked goodness ( and, go get some nutella, too...oh, and buy the book. You'll love it.)

The Master Recipe ( Makes four 1 lb. loaves--- we did halfsies)

3 cups lukewarm water
1.5 Tbsp. granulated yeast ( or two packets of instant yeast)
1. 5 Tbsp. kosher salt
6.5 cups unsifted, unbleaches all purpose white flour measured by scooping with minimal pressure and sweeping off level ( I don't know why this is specified in every recipe in this book but I went with it and it worked fine- normally I spoon in and then sweep.)

Cornmeal for dusting

Special equipment: Pizza stone or other baking stone ( not totally necessary but important for the crackle.) Large 5 qt. lidded container.
1. Warm water slightly to about body temperature and add yeast and salt. You can add make this in a large mixing bowl or a lidded 5 quart container ( that way, you only dirty one thing because you're gonna store this stuff in the container. Or, you can start all this off in a 14 cup food processor or stand mixer.

2. Mix in flour until uniformly moist. Either do this by hand, with spoon, or in a 14 cup food processor or stand mixer, both fitted with a dough hook.

3. That's it. Once uniformly mixed, let it rest at room temperature for 2 hours. After 2 hours, you can make it or refrigerate the dough.

4. Once you're ready to bake, liberally sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza peel ( not the stone) or cutting board or counter top. This is where you're going to set your loaf to rise and you don't want it to stick.

5. Sprinkle the surface of your dough with flour and pull off a grapefruit size hunk ( that's about 1 lb.) Quickly form it into a ball by the "gluten cloak" method-- this means, stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter turn until all sides are tucked under. Resist the urge to knead- this whole process should take 30-60 seconds. Set the seam side down on the corn meal and let it rest for 40 minutes.

6. 20 minutes into the rest period, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F and make sure you have an empty broiler tray in there and the stone on the middle rack.

7. When the dough has rested for 40 minutes, dust it with flour ( dusted a bit too much) and score with a serrated knife into a pattern (tic tac toe, stripes, x marks the stop, etc.) and then carefully place your ball on the stone and return to the oven. Quickly dump about 1 cup of tap water into the broiling tray and shut the door real fast to trap the steam. THIS IS THE KEY TO THE MAGIC.

8. Bake for 30 minutes. Try to let it cool completely before you break in. Oh, when it first comes out, listen to it sing. Oh, the merriment. Confused about the 5 minutes part? Well, the whole process takes about 5 minutes of actual interaction with the stuff...maybe 15 minutes tops once you've cleaned everything up. I say, that's pretty good since I could be doing plenty of other stuff in between and still have hot bread in record time per day. And, it's yum.