I 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.
Not 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.
It'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.
Second, 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.
Congratulations to the most recent giveaway winners--to Jaime from Shreveport, Louisiana for winning the Belle Invitations giveaway last week and to Deb from St. Paul, Minnesota and Dee Dee from Hazelton, Pennsylvania for winning this weekend's Wii games. Wii are all very excited and hope Yuu like your prizes.
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