Friday, December 19, 2008

Artisan Bread for Everyone

I've been eyeing this other food blog lately, in which the authors claim that one can bake artisan bread in five minutes a day. I was highly doubtful, mostly because I have been slaving over my own sourdough starter, that I made from wild caught yeast, that needs to be fed THREE times a day, in regular intervals, every day...unless it is in dormancy in the fridge (where it is now...I have too many other mouths to feed currently).

A while back we had tried the so-called
no knead bread upon the advice of our friend Eli, who had recommended it to us. While it was quite good, it did not deliver the tang of an aged starter, nor the shapability or variation of recipes of a sourdough starter. But my sourdough starter was wearing down my patience (well really my husband was the one who most frequently remembered to feed it), and my pocketbook...bread flour gets expensive after awhile, especially when so much of it gets dumped down the drain. So I was eager to try this recipe for "artisan bread" in just minutes a day.

It is so simple it is scary, and I was pretty sure that I had gotten it wrong. I just dumped yeast, water, salt and flour into a large container and stirred until it was a gooey mass. I left it to rise for a few hours at room temperature, then put it in the fridge for a few days until I was ready to bake a loaf. Then I scooped out a grapefruit sized ball of dough with floured hands, and gently shaped it into a round with my hands, pulling it tight and tucking it underneath itself. Then I let is rest for 45 minutes while my oven heated up. I slashed the top a bit with a sharp knife then I slid it onto my heated oven stone and baked it.

The results were much better than I imagined. The dough rose up and produced a round loaf with a blistered, crisp crust and air pockets within. While not particularly tangy, I had to forgive that bit, just for the amazing ease with which this loaf was created. It is so much like that original no knead bread, but different in that it can be shaped into different forms. Tonight I made a beautiful, if imperfect bread wreath, and it really did only take me five minutes....4 1/2 to shape the loaf and 30 seconds to turn on the oven and adjust the racks!

Here is the
great recipe I used. One batch makes four 1 pound loaves and will last for about 2 weeks in the fridge. I hope that you can find 5 minutes to make your own artisan bread. It is truly amazing and delicious, and has revolutionized the way I make bread. I know that with a bit of practice that my loaves will look better and better and I can't wait to try more of their bread variations.

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