Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I've Waited Long Enough. I Couldn't Wait Any Longer

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a DayI think I've mentioned once or twice how I'm a Type A Planner--I even have my posts outlined for the month just to give myself a general idea of things that I could write about (should the mood strike). In fact, since I've been rather lazy about sticking to my outline this summer I had a burst of productivity preparatory to school starting tomorrow (YAHOO!!) and I even planned out my posts through September. Crazy I know.

But my point is . . . I had this post lined up for farther down the road but I must say I've been so excited about it and have been yakking about it to my family that pretty soon it'll hardly be news anymore so I decided to just get it down right now, schedule be darned. Besides--it makes me happy just thinking about it.

I finally got my library's copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I've wanted the book for quite a while and put it on hold at the library where I was approximately number 427 on the list. My turn finally came up and I got it last week and I must say it is GOLD.

In fact, if I had the cash I'd turn right around and buy the book myself, it's that good. "Why?" you may ask? I'm so glad you did because I'm going to tell you in ten paragraphs or less.

It does exactly what it the title says: it teaches you this new (dare I say revolutionary?) technique for making homemade bread that takes no more than five minutes of labor and produces absolutely restaurant-hearth-baked-artisan-quality bread just like you savor in the bakeries. I've tried for years to be able to do this, have worn out four different bread machines along with two replacement buckets and still never reached the summit. I figured I needed one of those fancy open-hearth ovens or something because I could never get that chewy crust and soft, spongy interior I so coveted.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a DayNot anymore. This bread Bible says all you have to do is mix up the four simple ingredients in a mixer or in a bowl by hand. Set the combined unkneaded dough aside to raise for a couple hours then pop a lid on the bowl and stick it in the refrigerator where it lounges, awaiting your pleasure for perhaps weeks. When you're ready you just lop off a ball of the dough (it'll be wet but easier to work with when it's cold) then shape it and leave it to raise on a cornmeal dusted peel (or rimless cookie sheet such as I have) then after 40 minutes of rising time you bake it in a thoroughly preheated oven at 450 degrees. You slide it off the peel and onto a clay baking stone for it to bake then quickly add a cup of hot water to a tray in the bottom of the oven to produce steam. Shut the door quickly so the steam doesn't escape and bake for 30 minutes.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a DayIt's like magic because when you open that door half an hour later you behold a golden ball of perfectly baked bread that literally crackles as it cools on your kitchen counter.

A couple of notes here about the process (and again, while I'm letting out the secrets here I completely recommend buying the book for yourself because they have great recipes and specific methods for baking the different styles of bread that you won't want to miss).

First, I zapped my dough in the microwave on 20% power for about 20 seconds after taking it out of the refrigerator just to take the chill off and let it raise a bit more. The cold dough worried me but after trying it both ways--heating and not heating the cold dough--I can say it didn't seem to make much of a difference in the finished product. Both seemed to rise enough and since the warmed dough is more difficult to manage without flouring or wetting your hands I say go with their instructions and don't try warming it up.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a DaySecond, I used to have a fancy $50 pizza stone and pizza peel but never used them so I gave them away (dang!) and not wanting to go out and buy another stone I used a large terra cotta saucer like you'd see in any gardening store and inverted it to use as a makeshift stone. Now it won't be as sturdy and might crack later on but it's a lot cheaper than the alternative if you want to play at this before investing in something so nice as a real stone. Plus, unless you're making a pizza or a baguette that won't fit on your saucer you'll only need something ten inches or so anyway.

And third, the book recommends using all-purpose unbleached white flour because the bleaching process removes some of the proteins from the flour, decreasing the nutritional value and damaging the dough's ability to raise properly. I used unbleached flour and got great results so I'd believe them. Don't worry about cleaning your mixing bowl because as the dough sits in your refrigerator it takes on a bit of a sourdough quality to it and if you mix the next batch of dough so that the older bits of dough get mixed in it just gives that whole tasty process a head start for the next batch.

So there are my raves. I cannot begin to record all the "I love yous" and "You're the greatest Mom evers" I've received since trying this--I think my favorite comment was "These 17 years have all built up to this moment of bread glory and every moment has been worth the wait."

Makes me want to check into their newest book on baking healthy bread. If it's half as good as this first book I'd do almost anything to get a copy.

***

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48 comments:

RefreshMom said...

Miss a week, miss a lot! I'm so sorry to hear about Andrew's job loss. I hate that unknown, uncertain feeling (and have experienced in one form or another more times than I care to remember!). Best wishes on the new endeavor; I hope it works out great for all of you. I can certainly relate to not wanting to be indentured to some other unreasonable external entity!


And thanks for the heads up on these books. If I could really do yummy homemade bread in 5 minutes, I might actually give it a try! I'll have to see if I can find a copy. The bread-loving boys in my family would thank you, I'm sure.

Diane said...

Isn't the bread to die for? And so very easy. I did the same thing - checked it out from the library (waiting list here as well) and then went crazy for three weeks. It's on my list to buy as well.

As a long time traditional yeast bread baker, the whole process freaked me out a bit, too. But it works - and the results are delightful!

Tracy M said...

But... but... but Michelle! What are the four ingredients??? I'm guessing flour, water, yeast and salt? Sugar? Olive oil?

I've been trying for hearth quality bread for nigh on 20 years now, I have the stone in my oven, and I AM READY. * just tell me what to do *

Musings of a Housewife said...

I have heard wonderful things about this book, and I just ordered it from Amazon. Can't WAIT!

Kathy G said...

The one time I put a baking stone in the oven and added water in the bottom of the oven, my stone cracked in half! I'm thinking it might have had a hairline crack or something, but you have to be careful.

Might have to look into this book.

Jill in MA said...

Mmmmm... I think I must try this. I've always been intimidated by bread and unwilling to add a bread machine to the piles of appliances filling up the kitchen.

SarahHub said...

I, too, have tried the homemade bread thing, but can't seem to get it right! I'll have to put this book on my list!

Naomi said...

Whoa. That book is going on my list right now!

Carina said...

I love this book too! It's so easy, which means I actually use it as opposed to the other 47,000 cookbooks in my kitchen. We've only tried about 4 recipes so far, but they've all been winners. I want to try the cornmeal Portuguese thing next.

Annie said...

Eureka! I have a reputation around here concerning bread: I kill it. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Our local baker suggested I try these types of bread because they do not contain yeast. Is this true?

I'm heading over to the library website to reserve my copy. I may yet bake a lovely loaf of bread that isn't flat.

Could it be true?

Melissa said...

Ah, "bread glory" and "worth the wait" are wonderful compliments indeed!! :) Now I have to check and see if my library has this book!

Tammy said...

I'm still waiting on this book from my library! I guess it is a hugely popular book!

Maddy said...

Hmm. My Pizza stone from the Pampered Chef [very expensive] broke. However they replaced it. It broke. I don't have the energy to get another replacement even though it's still in warranty.

That said I still manage to hurl my two or four loaves in the oven most days. Not so much an artisan as a drone I suspect.

You might want to add 'Ratios' to your book list. I'm only about half way through but so far so good.
Cheers

MommyTime said...

I can't wait to check out this book. It sounds fantastic.

Valerie said...

That book went immediately on my wishlist so maybe it'll be wrapped up under my tree in December. I can only hope!

Danielle a.k.a Yellie said...

This sounds amazing and easy! There is nothing quite like homemade bread and I have failed miserably, several times, trying to master it. Fall is quickly approaching and that's when I get in a major baking mood, so I just may need to check this book out. Thank you so much for sharing! Happy bread making!

Heather said...

Oooh! Now I have a couple of things to add to my Christmas list. Thanks for sharing!

Jolanthe said...

Ok - that last little comment 'wii hope you enjoy..."

Yuu are too funny. :)

And ten paragraphs or less, huh? :)

I'll have to check into that book!

Jolanthe

Heather said...

Just reserved the book at my library! (already had 9 holds) Thanks for the tip!

Inkling said...

This sounds really interesting. I'll have to put my name in the pot for our library. Granted, we try to avoid white flour, and I pretty much just use the unbleached stuff for pizza dough and the occasional baked treat. So I'm curious to see how it might work with whole wheat. I've been experimenting lately, and have been surprised how it's possible to sneak whole wheat in there and take out some of the unbleached.

Thanks for sharing this! I'll definitely have to check it out!

april said...

Thanks for reviewing this. I've had it on my wishlist for a while, and I keep hearing it's good, but no one ever explains why it's good. I like hearing your opinion.

Next, would you review baking stones? ;) I'm definitely planning on getting this book now, but I'm clueless as to how to choose a book baking stone. Is it all brand name or is there something else I should look for to discern quality?

april said...

Oh, also, what would happen if bleached flour is used? A comparison would be nice, though I won't twist your arm and force you to bake more bread just to satisfy my curiosity.

I'm not sure if the place I shop sells anything other than AP bleached white flour (Aldi).

april said...

And by "book baking stone," I meant "good baking stone."

Ugh. Sorry for filling up your post with my comments.

Scribbit said...

Tracy--I felt funny about including the recipe but really, there are so many in the book it's worth the price.

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 T Kosher salt (3/4 less if table salt)
1 1/2 T yeast
6 1/2 c all-purpose unbleached flour (measured using "scoop and sweep" method)

I'm going to try their brioche recipe for breakfast tomorrow, they have one where you roll it up with ganache in the middle that I've been dreaming about.

As for stones--I've been using that terra cotta saucer and it's working great. It's only big enough for one loaf at a time but still--a great option for under $5 if you only bake a bit.

Scribbit said...

I think you could try it with bleached flour, it just may not raise quite as well. I will probably give it a try just to see.

Stay tuned April :)

chelle said...

UNKNEADED!
So going to check this out from the library!

Andrea said...

Sounds great! I'm gonna see if my library has it.

Marie N. said...

I borrowed the book from the library a few months ago. We re still enjoying a few loaves of fresh bread each week. I'm pleased the family has not gotten tired of it, and I love the smell of baking bread in my house.

The LIbrary Lady said...

Alton Brown (Good Eats) does the clay pot--in fact he uses the saucer with the pot on top to make a brick oven.
As long as the pot's unglazed, it's safe and should work well. I've been meaning to try it, though I'm a bit skeptical about the 5 minute bread thing. I've done the "no knead" bread thing, and it was good, but not as good, say, as baguettes made a la Julia Child!

snarflemarfle said...

Oh. My. Stars. You have talked me into this book and it's on my Amazon wish list. My whole family (mom, dad, sister, husband, son, daughter, me) are carb-sters and homemade bread is such a luxury. In fact, I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've made bread in this house (we've lived here 8 years!).

Jenny said...

OOOOH! I've been dying to read that book. I'm so glad to hear that it lives up to the promise!

~3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

The Artisan bread book is on my wish list too!

LOL I keep a blog schedule too despite my absence this past few weeks while I got the new blog up and going and have been finalizing projects on the house and packing for the move and...

Aleta said...

Here is a link to an online article with 3 or 4 recipes!!! This bread is so yummy - never even thought about the 'steam' method!!

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/Artisan-Bread-In-Five-Minutes-A-Day.aspx

Nancy said...

I was so inspired by this post--I love to bake, especially bread!- that I made both the recipe you included (which is found on the website that Aleta shared) and the brioche recipe that is found on their website artisanbreadinfive.com
They are doing their first rising right now and then into the fridge. I can't wait to try them up tomorrow. Homemade naan, good bread for dipping in olive oil...yummy!

BUT! I don't have a pizza peel/paddle thingy. Is there anything I could use instead?

Diane said...

Flour - I used Aldi's regular bleached flour with no ill results. Whole wheat - there are several dozen recipes in the book, many of which can (or should) be made with wheat flour.

I've no pizza peel either - use a rimless cookie sheet and the bread slides off just fine with a little nudge.

Lauri said...

I saw this in the bookstore and thought it was too good to be true. Thanks for the recommendation. I now have a copy on hold at the library too.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Like I need an excuse to make bread.

Dang.

And just when I was hoping to cut the carbs.

Scribbit said...

Nancy--as I mentioned, you could use a cookie sheet without a rim for the peel and a terra cotta saucer for the stone in a pinch.

Mirien said...

I love this book, too. What a fabulous discovery! I almost bought it until I read about the new one coming out--I've already pre-ordered it from Amazon. I love whole grain breads, and I've had success with the basic ABinF recipe using half white and half wheat flour.

I also use the tip I learned from their website--it's not in the book. Instead of the water in the oven, invert a large stainless steel bowl or a pot on top of the dough on your stone. It traps in the steam and makes a wonderful crust.

Mimi said...

oooooooh. can't wait for the healthy bread book to come out. i think it's going to make a perfect christmas gift for my sister...

A Happy Heart Blog said...

I can smell the bread in Montreal! I love that you plan all your posts ahead of time...makes for a lot more thoughtful posts!

Laurel Nelson said...

My husband has just decided he's going to be a bread baker too and has found a recipe that requires only 1/4 tsp of yeast, you let it rise overnight, and he cooks it in a cast iron dutch oven. It's DELICIOUS - I dare say as delicious as what you've tried. Have I got a great guy or what???

april said...

Thanks Michelle!

Nancy said...

So, I made the basic bread recipe. A.maz.ing. It was so delicious, we gobbled it up. My 'grapefruit' size dough didn't rise that much, though, so there wasn't much to gobble. I plan on using more for when we have guests tomorrow.
And the brioche recipe? Out of this world. It was delicious. My filling left a lot to be desired (I skimped on it, I'll be honest), and you could tell. But the bread? Awesome.
Thanks Michelle for helping me branch out my baking (and getting that pizza stone out of the box!).

april~living the sweet life said...

Your bread look beautiful. I am sure it tasted just as good.

Jeff Hertzberg said...

I'm Jeff Hertzberg, one of the co-authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I'm so glad our recipes are working well for you. Come visit us anytime at http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com, where you can post questions into any "Comments" field, or click on "Bread Questions" on the left side of the homepage and choose among the options.

Jeff Hertzberg
www.artisanbreadinfive.com
http://twitter.com/ArtisanBreadIn5

Chicago tribune video: http://us.macmillan.com/BookCustomPage.aspx?isbn=9780312362911&m_type=2&m_contentid=119255#video

snarflemarfle said...

Just thought I would tell you my mom is loving this book! She's on her third batch of dough and she's made loaves of bread, the tastiest homemade pizza I've ever had and just this past weekend she made cinnamon rolls! I have got to find room in my fridge so I can have a stash of bread dough!!

Sam and Carmin said...

Hi Michelle! You introduced me to these authors, and I now have Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. If you haven't been able to get your hands on a copy yet, I can lend you mine for a month or two. I'm here in Anchorage, so just email me--my user name at gmail--and I can get it to you. Carmin