The lazy girl’s guide to bread baking

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.

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un baguette…Ooo la la!

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.

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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!

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This entry was published on January 15, 2014 at 6:18 pm. It’s filed under Baking, Food and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

8 thoughts on “The lazy girl’s guide to bread baking

  1. Oh, I’ve been cooking with their technique for a year (and meaning to blog about it). I love it and I’ve got all of their books. I find that for pizza, it works best to use a pizza screen and do a short pre-bake before adding the toppings.

    • Thanks, that sounds like a good tip. I’d really like their book on healthy breads. So far I’ve made the master recipe, the whole grain recipe using spelt flour, and today the buttermilk-cinnamon raisin bread. I’d like to use more whole grain recipes since the white versions aren’t what I’d call healthy. But overall I’m really enjoying making bread.

      • I will be honest, I’ve not had as much success with the Healthy Breads book, but that is because the really heavy loaves do not appeal to my family as much. I recently got a scale, so I may have better luck weighing the ingredients.

  2. Pingback: Is Fresh Bread Every Day Possible? | Knocked Up - Knocked Over

  3. Oh man, in addition to making salads and plating desserts (where I learned that an assortment of squeeze bottles filled with fruit purees and cream reductions can make your desserts look AMAZING), one of my jobs in my first year in a restaurant kitchen was to make dinner rolls every night. I think my muscles probably still remember how to twist rolls without conscious thought.
    I still make pizza dough (although my kids, much to my chagrin, ask me if we can have ‘real’ pizza rather than homemade), and occasionally I’ll bake a loaf or two, but with fantastic (and still warm) baguettes available at all the local supermarkets it seems superfluous.
    This sounds intriguing, but do you realize that you haven’t actually shared the recipes? Don’t hold out on us, Mama. Throw us a bone.
    And by the way, have you ever made schiacciata all’uva? It’s basically slightly sweet focaccia with grapes. Heavenly for breakfast. http://www.emikodavies.com/blog/schiacciata-alluva-florentine-grape-bread/

    • Apparently I’m an idiot bc I was having a teensy moral issue with posting a recipe from a book, while the authors already have lots of recipes posted on their own website. Should’ve researched that one a little better. I’ll post the recipe soon. There have been other recipes I’ve wanted to share but if it’s from a book rather than a website I feel like i’m cheating the author by doing so since it’s their blood, sweat and tears that went into creating it in the first place. Too much conscience?

      • No, you’re probably right there. I just have no conscience. A really good recipe is kind of like the polio vaccine – too important to the welfare of humankind not to share.

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