Sunday, June 20, 2010

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

This recipe is from the cookbook by the same name, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

The basic recipe has been reproduced in a few blogs with permission, so I won't do so again here. Instead I'll send you to one of the other websites. And strongly recommend that you buy the cookbook; there's a lot of basic info about bread baking and what worked for the authors, and what didn't, as they came up with the basic recipe. And of course there are a number of variations on the theme, even recipes for bagels and breakfast dishes.

The idea is to mix up a big batch of dough to keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Kneading isn't necessary, as the time it sits in the fridge is enough to allow the gluten to develop. Then when you want a beautiful free-formed loaf of crusty artisan bread to go with your homemade soup, you simply cut out a piece about the size of a grapefruit, shape as desired, let rise, and bake.

I really like this method because as the dough sits for a few days, a delicious sourdough flavor develops. In fact, when the dough is gone I like to mix a new batch in the same container without washing it to preserve that flavor (don't get grossed out; it's in the fridge, and since you're adding new flour you're feeding the yeast which means mold doesn't grow. It's like maintaining a sourdough starter).

Another similar recipe is the overnight No-Knead Artisan Bread recipe. Pro: makes one batch at a time, so you don't need to keep anything in your fridge. Con: makes only one batch at a time. There's no better food to prepare in your cast iron Dutch oven!

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