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Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

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Written by Heather Jones   

When people find out that you attended culinary school there seems to be this consensus that you must like to bake.  No, I like to cook. I actually detest baking - I barely made it through the minimal pastry training that I did have.  Baking and Pastry has always been too much of a science for me, its too precise leaving very little room for error or improvisation.  I have no problem admitting that my pie crusts and puff pastry suck.  One bright spot in that training, however, was bread making.  I love making bread, but with a full time job, husband, daughter, and various outside interests there never was time until now.  Bread lover Jeff Hertzberg and Pastry Chef Zoe Francois have found a way for everyone to enjoy the benefits of fresh baked bread in their book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day".  The basic concept is that pre-mixed, pre-risen, high-moisture dough keeps well in the fridge and by pre-mixing this dough without kneading and then storing it, the only other requirements on the day you wish to make bread is shaping and baking.  It really is that simple and quite revolutionary.  One thing to note is that this dough will be a little wetter to work with than other doughs you've tried but that's one of the reasons why the dough holds up so well and allows you to be able to make loaf after loaf from the one batch. Listed below are the recipes for my favorite types of bread. Being a huge panini fan I had to learn how to make Ciabatta bread and then of course there is Challah Bread which makes the best French toast.  This book is loaded with other great recipes both savory and sweet and lots of basic tips for successful bread making.  Once you get the techniques down the possibilities really are endless.

Happy Baking!

Ciabatta 

From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, Thomas Dunne Books 2007

The word Ciabatta is Italian for slipper, and refers to the shape of the bread, which is halfway between a flatbread and a loaf-shaped bread. It’s made from very wet dough, shaped as an elongated oval or rectangle (perhaps you have slippers shaped like this?). To achieve the very moist crumb, shape the loaf with wet hands, rather than dusting with flour. The bread will be chewy and moist, with large and appealing air holes. Ciabatta is baked without cornmeal  on the bottom, so dust the pizza peel with a think coating of white flour instead. And, since white flour is a less efficient “stick-preventer” than cornmeal, you may need to nudge the loaf off the peel with a steel dough scraper or spatula. 

Makes 1 ciabatta 

1 pound (grapefruit-size portion) Boule dough (see at the end of this recipe)

White flour for the pizza peel 

1. Cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of refrigerated dough without dusting the surface with flour; wet hands will help prevent sticking. Using your wet hands, shape the dough into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. With your wet fingers, flatten the ball into an elongated oval about ¾ inch thick. Don’t make it thinner than ¾ inch or it will puff like pita bread, which isn’t desirable here. 

2. Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450˚F, 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. 

3. Place the loaf on a flour-covered pizza peel and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Dust the top with flour, but don’t slash the loaf. 

4. Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the boiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until deeply brown. 

5. Allow to cool on a rack before cutting or eating.

 

The Master Recipe: Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)

From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, Thomas Dunne Books 2007

Makes four 1- pound loaves. This recipe is easily doubled or halved. 

  • 3 Cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
  • 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop and sweep method

Mxing and Storing the Dough

  1.  Warm the water slightly: It should feel just a little warmer than body temperature, about 100 degrees.  Warm water will rise the dough to the right point for storage in about 2 hours.  You can use cold tap water and an identical final result; then the first rising will take 3 ore ven 4 hours.  That won't be too great a difference, as you will only be doing this once per stored batch.
  2. Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart bowl or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container or food-grade bucket.  Don't worry about getting it all to dissolve.
  3. Mix in the flour-kneading is unnecessary: Add all of the flour at once measuring it in with dry-ingredient measuring cups, by gently scooping up flour, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula;don't press down into the flour as you scoop or you'll throw off the measurement by compressing.  Mix with a wooden spoon, a high-capacity food processor (14 cups or larger) fitted with the dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the mixture is uniform.  If you're hand-mixing and it becomes too difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, you can reach into your mixing vessel with very wet hands and press the mixture together.  Don't knead! It isn't necessary.  You're finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches.  This step is done in a matter of minutes and will yield a dough that is wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container. 
  4. Allow to rise: Cover with a lid (not airtight) that fits well to the container you're using.  Do not use screw-topped bottles or Mason jars, which would could explode from the trapped gases.  Lidded plastic buckets designed for dough storage are readily available.  Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), approximately 2 hours, depending on the room's temperature and the initial water temperature.  Longer rising times, up to about 5 hours, will not harm the result.  You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period.  Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature.  So, the first time you try our method, it's best to refrigerate the dough overnight (or at least 3 hours), shaping.  

Challah 

From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, Thomas Dunne Books 2007

This is the bread traditionally served in Jewish households at the start of the Sabbath on Friday nights. Some variation of an egg-enriched sweet loaf appears across bread-loving cultures. The French and Italians have Brioche (page 189). The choice of melted butter versus oil definitely changes the flavor and aroma. And butter-enriched doughs are stiffer and easier to braid when cold; oil-based challah dough is a little “looser” and more prone to spreading sideways while resting, but delicious nonetheless. For an intense and decadent challah, try making it with the Brioche dough, the blast of butter and egg creates and incredibly rich bread-eating experience.

We store the egg enriched dough in the freezer after 5 days of refrigerator storage. 

Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved. 

  • 1 ¾ cups lukewarm water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons granulated yeast (1 ½ packets)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons salt
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted (or neutral-tasting vegetable oil such as canola), plus more for greasing the cookie sheet.
  • 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)
  • Poppy or sesame seeds for the top 

1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey, and melted butter (or oil) with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container. 

2. Mix in the flour 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. 

3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours 

4. 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 5 days. Beyond 5 days, freeze in 1-pound portions in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. Defrost frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before using. Then allow the usual rest and rise time. 

5. On baking day, butter or grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper or a silicone mat. 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 all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

6. Divide the ball into thirds, using a dough scraper or knife. Roll the balls between you hands (or on a board) stretching, to form each into a long thin rope. If the dough resists shaping, let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Braid the ropes, starting from the center and working to one end. Turn the loaf over, rotate it, and braid from the center out to the remaining end. This produces a loaf with a more uniform thickness when braided from end to end. 

7 Allow the bread to rest and rise on the prepared cookie sheet for 1 hour and 20 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefridgerated dough). 

8. Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350˚F. If you’re not using a stone in the oven, 5 minutes is adequate. Brush the loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with the seeds. 

9. Bake near the center of the oven for about 25 minutes. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time. The challah is done when golden brown, and the braids near the center of the loaf offer resistance to pressure. Due to the fat in dough, challah will not form a crackling crust. 

10. Allow to cool before slicing or eating.

About Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

ImageThere’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread to fill a kitchen with warmth, eager appetites, and endless praise for the baker who took on such a time-consuming task. Now, you can fill your kitchen with the irresistible aromas of a French bakery every day with just five minutes of active preparation time, and Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day will show you how.

Available at Amazon.com 

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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