Thursday, June 5, 2008

There's Nothing like Fresh-baked Bread

Nothing tastes better than fresh-baked bread. While I was growing up my mom baked 4 loaves of bread at least twice a week for our large family. I loved coming home from school and smelling that bread baking in the oven . . . almost as much as I loved smelling her fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies! My mom still bakes, though not as often since it's now just her and my dad at home, but I always look forward to her bread when I visit.

These days everyone is so busy that few have the luxury of devoting the majority of an entire day to the process of homemade bread. Even for people who are self-employed and work from home, like I do, can't devote the time (at least not very often) to make and knead the dough, put it through all its necessary restings and risings and, finally, bake it. So, when I found this book, "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day," looked through it and realized the authors literally meant FIVE minutes a day, I couldn't wait to try out their new technique.

You've seen the photo (above) of my first loaf of artisan bread. It turned out great!
This is the dough ball before it was baked, on a wooden chopping board sprinkled with cornmeal. I chose the "Light Whole Wheat Bread" recipe for my first attempt.
Yep, those are cat paws. It's Jack. He always wants to help in the kitchen. I let him watch. No touching or tasting!
Here is the bread after I cut the first slice. The texture is wonderful, the crust thick and chewy just the way I like it and, best of all, it tastes delish!

Did it take just 5 minutes a day? If you don't count the time I spent reading the book -- YES! It's amazingly simple. All you do on the first day is mix together water, yeast, salt, and flour in a great big bowl, either by hand or with a mixer. Then you simply let it rest (in the same container) for a couple of hours (resting & baking time is not included in the 5 minutes a day calculation, of course). The dough rises and then falls a little in that time. Then you pick up the bowl, put a lid on it, and put it in the fridge.

The next day you cut off a piece of dough the size of a grapefruit, shape it into a ball, and let it rest on a cornmeal-sprinkled board for 40 minutes. Then slash it a few times with a serrated knife and bake for 35 minutes or so. And there's still enough dough in the bowl for 3 more loaves of bread! Each recipe is large enough to bake 4 loaves at once, or one loaf at a time for up to 14 days.

That's it! NO KNEADING! That's the hard-to-believe part for me. I've baked bread for 20 years and every recipe, except quick breads, requires kneading of the dough. Plus, the only rising or rising time is the initial two hours, then the 40 minutes before baking.

I'm very excited to have found this book and am going to buy a copy for myself. Until then I'll try not to spill anything on the copy I borrowed from the library.

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