One benefit of taking a long airplane trip is that a tremendous amount of reading is accomplished. During my trip to Italy – land of wonderful food and bread – I read Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë Francois’s book, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. It has changed the way I think about making bread.
Confession: I have a bread machine, and while I learned how to make bread the old fashioned way prior to getting the bread machine (*cringe* – 20 years ago), I must admit that I only have the level of commitment to throw the ingredients into the machine and press start. With this book, it’s almost the same thing, with better results.
The Master Recipe is the base for most of the recipes in the book. Did I mention that the book
is available digitally through Barnes and Noble NookBooks?
The basic principle behind Artisan Bread is this: Make a batch of very wet dough that is enough for 4 loaves of bread, and use it over the next 14 days to make delicious crusty bread as needed. You need a little space in the refrigerator to store the dough, but you can also bake and freeze loaves (or the dough) if you like.
While there are many enticing recipes in the book, I wanted to start with the Master Recipe to make sure I was doing it right. Using a Kitchenaid mixer (though the instructions say to use a bowl and a fork), you mix all the ingredients together for a minute or so. This takes about as much time as putting the ingredients into a bread machine.
The Boule is the basic shape of Artisan Bread. A good place to start.
After mixing the ingredients, leave the bowl loosely covered on the counter for 2 hours. After that you can bake with it or put it in the fridge for another day. Shaping the loaf takes less than a minute. I made the boule loaf and plopped it on the pizza peel. It rises on cornmeal before going into the oven – another hands-off experience.
My first loaf came out a little dark on top, but pretty impressive for a first time. The crust was crispy, the crumb was perfect. I couldn’t believe I made it myself!
The book recommends consuming the bread on the day that it is made. Twist my arm.
The best part is that we were able to make more bread the next day and again a couple days later. With the same dough, you can make the Sandwich Loaf:
Perfect with olive oil and balsamic drizzled on top.
It does take a little bit of planning around the rising and baking times, but if you wanted to make bread for dinner, you could form the loaf when you get home from work and bake it as dinner is cooking. This dough also works for pizza.
So this summer, as you find yourself needing some bread for bruschetta, take a few minutes and enjoy the immense satisfaction that comes with making home made bread.