Monday, March 23, 2009

Artisan Breads

No longer will I have to pay upwards of $3.00 to $4.00 for a loaf of rustic crunchy-crusted artisan bread. Now, I can enjoy making my own right here at home, and at a fraction of the cost!
My copy of Artisan Bread in Five-Minutes a Day arrived last week, and I finally found time today to mix up the basic dough. So easy to mix, I could hardly wait until I could bake that very first loaf!
The authors, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, say it is easy, and they really aren't kidding! Once the yeast and salt were dissolved in warm water, all I had to do was stir in the flour until there were no lumps. It seemed like I barely even had to mix it! The dough, left sticky with absolutely no kneading, is set aside to rise at room temperature, then covered and refrigerated. Seriously, it was almost too easy! To make my loaves, all I had to do was cut off chunks of the refrigerated dough, barely shape them into balls and let them rise for a couple of hours on my pizza peel. I dusted the tops with flour, slashed them so they looked like authentic artisan bread from a fancy bakery and slid them off the pizza peel onto my preheated baking stone in my oven.
The secret to this wonderful bread and its crunchy crust seems to be the pan of water placed in the oven while the loaves bake. As the authors recommend, I used the bottom portion of my broiler pan and let the crust get quite brown and hard before I removed the loaves from the oven. These first loaves had to bake about ten minutes longer than recommended in the book, perhaps because my dough was so moist and mixed fresh just this morning.
The book mentions that as the dough ages, the baking times as well as texture and flavor of the bread can change - baking time will lesson and the flavor will be enhanced. Wow! And these first loaves are already so unbelievably delicious!
The remainder of the dough is simply stored in the refrigerator - for up to two weeks, or can even be frozen for a longer period of time. Since all I will have to do now is pull off a chunk and shape it into a ball when I want a fresh loaf, it couldn't be any easier. The authors indicate that the basic recipe makes four loaves. I prefer loaves on the small side, so will probably be able to make six or eight loaves out of this one basic recipe.
Look how very easy it was!

My loaves, a hard, crunchy crust on the outside and moist texture on the inside with an absolutely wonderful aroma. Like some of the artisan breads available in the stores, next time I'll try adding a little something - maybe a handful of thyme and rosemary, or fresh basil leaves.
For more information on Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, check out their website at you'll even find their master recipe there. Their site, regularly updated with new recipes designed around the master recipe, other recipes for foods to eat with all those wonderful breads, helpful hints and tips and photos of breads so lovely that you can almost smell their aroma as they come out of their ovens.

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