RECIPE REDUX: ARTISAN BREAD

We get it. You hate baking. Turns out, we agree that the whole process can be daunting – mixing, rising, knocking down, scaling, baking, blah blah blah. We love fresh bread, but we don't love making it.

That is, until Greg struck up a conversation online with Jeffery Hertzberg, co-author of the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: the Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking”. Jeffery, a physician and bread fanatic, teamed with Zoe Francois, a Culinary Institute of America trained pastry chef, to create a method for creating fresh baked bread with only 5 minutes of actual hands-on time per day.

So, we tried his method, and to our amazement, the base recipe yielded a dense, crisp crust, and custard-like inside – it really only took about 5 minutes of hands-on time.

You can check out Jeff and Zoe’s baking secrets and buy their book here. While you’re waiting for it in the mail, try out the master recipe:

Master Bread Recipe from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”
Makes four 1-pound loaves

Ingredients
1½ tablespoons granulated yeast
3 cups (1.5lbs) lukewarm water, about 100º F
1½ tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt (can decrease to 1 tablespoon to taste)
6½ cups (2lbs) unbleached all-purpose white flour—no need to sift
Cornmeal for the pizza peel

  1. In a 5-quart bowl, mix the yeast, water and salt.  Add all the flour, then use a wooden spoon to mix until all ingredients are uniformly moist. It is not necessary to knead or continue mixing once the ingredients are uniformly moist.  This will produce a loose and very wet dough.
  2. Cover with a lid (not airtight). Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse, about 2 hours, but no more than 5 hours.
  3. After rising, the dough can be baked immediately, or covered (do not store in an airtight container) and refrigerated up to 14 days. The dough will be easier to work with after at least 3 hours refrigeration.
  4. On baking day, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent the bread from sticking when you transfer it to the oven (or use parchment paper).  Uncover the dough and sprinkle the surface with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough (serrated knives or kitchen shears are best). Store the remaining dough in the bowl (covered with plastic wrap) and refrigerate for baking at another time.
  5. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't stick. Create a smooth ball of dough by gently pulling the sides down around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.  While shaping, most of the dusting flour will fall off. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out during resting and baking. Shaping the loaf this way should take no more than 1 minute.
  6. Place the dough on the pizza peel. Allow the loaf to rest for about 40 minutes. It does not need to be covered. The bread may not rise much during this time.
  7. Twenty to thirty minutes before baking, place a pizza stone on the center rack of the oven. If you don't have a baking stone, use another baking sheet. Remove any upper racks. Place a broiler pan on a rack below the pizza stone.  Preheat oven to 450 F.
  8. When the dough has rested for 40 minutes (or longer for a more “open” crumb), dust the top liberally with flour, then use a serrated knife to slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top.
  9. Slide the loaf off the peel and onto the baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door.
  10. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is deeply browned and firm to the touch. Allow the bread to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack.

(Adapted from Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François’ "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,")