February 19th, 2014
I don’t typically like making bread. Even no-knead seems like too much work, or at least takes too much time, but a new cookbook discovery has changed all that. Thanks to The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, I’m currently obsessed with baking bread from scratch. It’s easy with this book’s completely groundbreaking-to-me approach. Seriously. I think you could get hooked, too. And, yes, I know how busy you are!
Making bread from scratch might seem insane to many of you crazed mamas and papas, but part of what’s so great about The New Artisan Bread approach is that you can take 10 active minutes on Saturday or Sunday to make dough that will sit ready-to-go in your fridge for up to 14 days. Then, when you decide it’s time to make bread anytime in that 2 week period, you take another 10 minutes to prep a loaf, let the bread rest, and then bake.
There is no kneading, no punching, and only one major rise (with some rest time on bake day). And though the book encourages a pizza peel and baking stone, I managed to make that amazing boule pictured above using a thin wooden cutting board coated with cornmeal and small cast iron skillet. No special equipment.
There are tons of bread recipes in the book—from sourdough to brioche—but the master recipe makes tons of different kinds of breads. I recently made quick Indian-Style Spinach with Chickpeas and, instead of making rice, grabbed dough out of my fridge, spent 5 minutes rolling out disks, and threw them in a pan with hot, melted butter to make fresh naan. Fresh naan with dinner—crazy!
To give you a sense of what this book is about, I’ve shared my abridged version of the master dough/boule recipe below. If you think I’m nuts for even suggesting scratch bread, I hope you’ll give the recipe a try. It’s honestly a revelation that will blow your mind if there’s even a tiny piece of you that likes the idea of making your own bread. Remember: like you, I cook dinner in 20-45 minutes every night. I get that you’re crazed, but also know that you love the idea of trying new, easy ways to feed your family delicious, homemade food. This is one of those ways.
If you’re already sold, I strongly suggest that you invest in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. It is chock full of important details, easy recipe variations, and helpful hints.
The master recipe below makes about 4 loaves. I halved it and was able to make naan for 4 and one boule—a good start I think. I recommend you do the same.
The Master Bread Recipe for Boule (and other breads)
From The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking
Makes about 4 loaves of bread
3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees F, not hotter)
1 tablespoon granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1. Begin by making sure that the water feels just a little warmer than body temperature, about 100 degrees F. Pour the water into a 6-quart bowl (one that pairs with a stand mixer if using one; keep in mind that it’s easy enough to mix the dough by hand with a spoon) or a lidded, but not airtight, food container. I used a large dutch oven. Add yeast and salt to water and gently stir two or three times.
2. To the water, add flour all at once. Mix in the flour using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or using a wooden spoon. There’s no need to knead the dough. You’re done mixing when the dough is uniformly moist, without dry patches; it should only take a couple of minutes, at most.
3. Cover the container with a lid that fits well but can be cracked open so that it is not completely airtight. If you’re using a bowl without a lid, cover it loosely with plastic wrap (not a towel!). Allow the dough to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours. You can use a portion of the dough at any time after this first (and only!) 2-hour rise. After this point, you can refrigerate the dough for use at any point in the next 14 days.
NOTE: If your container isn’t vented, allow gases to exacpe by leaving it open a crack for the first couple of days in the fridge. You can close to it airtight after that. However long you leave the dough in the fridge, do not punch it down. Just grab what you need every time you bake, and leave the rest as is.
4. On baking day, prep a pizza wheel with cornmeal or parchment paper to prevent the dough from sticking to it when you slide the loaf into the oven (the parchment will slide right onto the baking stone along with the loaf). I don’t have a pizza wheel and, instead, use a small, lightweight, wooden cutting board. Dust the surface of your just risen or refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough using a serrated knife or kitchen shears. Hold the dough in one hand and dust with more flour as needed so that it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough from the top around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Most of the dusting flour will fall off, which is okay. The top of the loaf should look relatively smooth and stretched, while the bottom may appear to be a collection of bunched ends. Don’t worry: the bottom will flatten out during baking. This whole process should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds—don’t overwork the dough.
5. Place the shaped loaf on the prepped pizza peel (or cutting board), and allow it to rest for about 40 minutes, uncovered.
6. In the meantime, preheat a baking stone near the middle of the oven to 450 degrees F, which will take about 20-40 minutes. I don’t have a baking stone and use a small cast iron pan instead. Place an empty metal broiler tray for holding water on any shelf that won’t interfere with bread and allow this to preheat, too.
7. When the loaf is done resting, dust the top of it liberally with flour and slash a 1/2″ deep cross or tic-tac-toe board pattern into the top with a serrated knife. Open the oven and carefully slide the loaf off of your peel (or cutting board) and onto the hot stone (or cast iron pan). Carefully pour 1 cup of hot water from the tap into the broiler tray and close the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, pulling the parchment paper off (if used) at about 20 minutes. When done, the crust should be richly browned and firm to the touch. Allow the loaf to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack, for best results.