Bread. Who doesn’t love it? I truly enjoy the process of bread baking. Kneading dough is cathartic for me. But with life as busy as it is these days it’s not always easy to drop everything and indulge in baking bread the traditional way.
Here’s where you ask…What other way is there?
I just bought The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg M.D. and Zoe François, and I’m loving it. It’s practically idiot-proof.
First let me say that I do have professional experience baking bread – but it wasn’t pretty. I learned the fundamentals as a culinary student and then reinforced those ideas during a grueling externship that began at 2 a.m. Bread bakers are seriously devoted! My husband would drive me to work and I’d be so sleepy and upset about my new schedule that I even cried sometimes. That’s not something I enjoy admitting but it sure did make me respect the craft.
The good news is you don’t need any prior bread baking experience to create a delicious, heavenly-smelling loaf. I’m serious! I’ve been out of a professional kitchen for a few years now and I admit, I find baking bread intimidating. So don’t feel bad if you do, too.
Gluten is what gives bread it’s structure and texture and that’s where kneading usually comes in. These two authors figured out that by increasing the amount of water used in their recipes they could achieve almost identical results without kneading. The gluten actually aligns itself to form the structure needed with this addition of water. Amazing, right?
The recipes allow you to mix the flour, yeast, salt and water (and any additions specific to the recipe you choose), leave it on the table to rise for a couple of hours then toss it into the fridge until you’re ready to grab a blob of dough and form it into a ball. Rest the dough and then into the oven it goes. Does it get any easier as far as bread goes?
So far I’ve made the Master Recipe and baked a baguette and then a boule. (The boule was eaten too quickly to photograph.) We had company over for dinner last weekend and everyone Ooo’d and Ahh’d over it. My 3 year-old circled the table like a shark until the bread was cool enough to slice.
Then I tried the Light Whole Wheat Bread recipe (where I subbed in 2 cups of spelt flour) and used it as pizza dough. Warning – if the dough isn’t chilled well it’s quite sticky to work with. The unbaked pizza stuck to the pan as I tried to shimmy it onto the baking stone and ended up looking like a giant mitten rather than a circle. But this hungry bunch didn’t seem to notice at all.
My next attempt will be with their recipe for Brioche, one of my personal favorites. There aren’t many things as simple and delightful as warm brioche with a little jam and hot coffee. (My stomach is growling just thinking about it.)
If you already own this book please share your adventures with bread baking!