Monday, May 2, 2011

Book and Recipe Review: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

I know.
I've been talking about this book, and the bread I made from it for like a month.
Thank goodness I am pregnant and can blame my blogging ineptitude, and so many other things, on said pregnancy.  It's a great excuse and I am going to milk it for all I've got for the next 7 weeks.
Speaking of milk.
Before I tell you about the bread, take a look at what I got in the mail recently.


Who doesn't love getting a surprise package in the mail?  
I was loving this milk bottle measuring cup set from Anthropologie and one of my friends sent it to me.
Total surprise, totally sweet, totally me.
The colors are amazing and you know how I feel about color.
What makes this even more me is the fact that I actually DO pour my milk into real milk bottles and use them every day.  (you wouldn't believe how many people ask me that question)
Yes, I do.  (you can see one on the table at the end of the post here
Isn't a glass milk bottle on the table so much nicer to look at than a big, plastic milk jug? 
Also, my boys can easily pour themselves a glass of milk from a bottle rather than that big ol jug.
I like to do simple things to make my life more enjoyable and more beautiful.

And that is what Jackie did when she sent me this gift.  
She made a bit of effort (although for me, getting to the post office is a ton of effort, so, a lot of effort)
and made my life more beautiful.  Thank you so much, Jackie, for thinking of me.
By the way, Jackie is my mom's best friend since junior high!  
They are still friends and see each other often.
There aren't many of us who can say we've had a friendship that has lasted that long.
I hope that the special friendships I have in my life will stand the test of time like my mom and Jackie's.
They are an inspiration.
Now, to the bread!

I have been searching for a good bread recipe for a long time.
We love a good loaf around here, but it is hard to get to the market for a fresh baguette or ciabatta everyday.  Also, good bread is expensive.  And we have a lot of mouths to feed.  If I could make my own, and easily, then I would be a very happy lady.
So when I found this book at the library, I had to give it a try.
Don't be intimidated by baking your own bread. Or by the length of the master recipe in the book.
I had a 2 year old helper, so I assure you, it wasn't difficult.

I will give you a photo breakdown of the process and the full recipe at the end of the post.
The master recipe for the bread calls for only 4 ingredients: water, salt, yeast and flour.
I don't own a scale so I couldn't weigh my ingredients, but now that I will be making this bread often, I think I will invest in one.  Weighing rather than measuring will allow for even better results.
I also do not have a thermometer to check the temperature of my water.  You can do without, but I think I am going to get one of those too.  
The recipe calls for white flour, but in my attempt to make my recipes more healthy, I subbed in 2 cups of whole wheat flour.  I think it worked fine.

Here is our dough after mixing all the ingredients together.
It is not kneaded, just mixed until it is a big, wet lump.
It is not pretty.
But it is easy and it smells good.
I used my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook to mix up the dough.
You don't have to have one though.  It will just take a little muscle power to work that wooden spoon through all that flour.

The recipe also calls for the dough to rise in a bowl with a lid, but not an airtight lid.  I don't have a lidded bowl big enough for that much dough, so I improvised and just covered my mixer bowl with a towel.
I am not sure if this dramatically affected my bread or not.  But again, it seemed just fine to me.

After 2 hours of rising, the dough looked like this.
Now with other bread recipes, you'd think your yeast was old and toss the whole thing out in frustration.
Not so this bread.  
It is supposed to look like this.  It is supposed to flatten out on top or even collapse.
And again, it does not look pretty.
After that you put it into the fridge to chill because the chilled dough is easier to work with.
And here lies the genius of this recipe: you have 14 days to use this dough.
And since the next 4 days did not allow for me to have time to pop this bread in the oven, I  got to see how holding the dough in a cold fridge really worked.

When you are ready to bake it, on day 1, 4 or 14, you dust the top with flour and pull out a grapefruit sized chunk (1 pound) of dough.  
Once again, it does not look pretty.
At this point, you can just put the rest of the dough back in the fridge, and make your one loaf.  That way you can save the rest for tomorrow.
Knowing how my family would wolf it down, I made 2 loaves.

You round out your ball of dough and set on a  pizza peel liberally dusted with corn meal.
A pizza peel is one of those wooden, paddle things that you see being used for making pizzas in those big pizza ovens.  
I don't have one.  So I used this pizza pan instead.  It was not ideal.  But it worked OK.  I also did not have corn meal so I used flour.  I would recommend the corn meal as the flour did not provide the "slide" that I was looking for.

After 40 minutes of rest the dough rises a bit--not a lot, so don't worry--and then you dust with flour and slash the top.  I tried 2 different styles of cuts.  I like the slashes much better.  
Also, don't use as much flour on top as I did.  I took "liberally" a bit to far.
Next you slide your dough into the oven and onto your heated stone.
This is the one tool I consider essential to making this bread,
A pizza or bread making stone gets hotter than a regular baking sheet.  It holds heat and makes for a crisper crust.  I use my baking stone for everything and can't say enough good things about it.
Pampered Chef makes some excellent ones,  That's the kind I have, but I have even seen them at Target.
It is one thing that is worth buying, I promise.
Next your pour a cup of water into a pan on the bottom rack of the oven to release steam into the oven and then wait.  
The warm bread smell will fill your house and soon, about 30 minutes, you can pull out your beautiful loaf of homemade bread.

Or, like mine, it may not look so pretty, but it still tastes good.
Here's a picture of the inside of the bread.  You can see it has a good hole structure.  It is not super dense.  I would like for bigger holes, more ciabatta like, but I will be working on that.

You are supposed to let it cool completely before cutting, but we could not.
When I bake bread, you'd think I made them chocolate fudge brownies.  They can't wait for a piece.

The bread is equally delicious spread with butter, above, or ripe avocado, below.
It is also delicious dipped in olive oil.

I couldn't wait to try another batch, so as soon as the 4 loaves that the master recipe makes were gone, I made up another batch.  This time it really only took me minutes because I knew exactly what I was doing.  It was great.  And it made me so excited about making my own bread every day,

The first loaf I made into olive bread,

To make this bread, you simply add olives to the dough and bake.
Not black olives.  I used Kalmata.  
Also, the recipe instructs you to roll out the dough and sprinkle the olives on top.  I was lazy and did not do that.  As a result, most of my olives were clumped in one spot.

It still tasted delicious, but next time I'll take an extra minute to roll out my dough,
Another thing I did differently with this second batch was to spread olive oil on the top of the bread and then sprinkle it with kosher salt.  It was so much better than the flour on top.
Even James, my 7 year old foodie, noticed.
"I like the salt on the top, Mom.  It adds a really good flavor."

The best thing about that second batch was that I really felt like I had the hang of it all and so for 4 nights in a row we had a loaf of freshly baked bread.  An hour or so before dinner, I pulled out a chunk of dough, let it rise and put it in the oven to bake,
What luxury!  
My family thought I was pretty amazing.
I can't wait to try many more of the recipes in the book.
It will be added to the short list of cook books that I actually want to own.

There is still some tweaking I want to do with this recipe.  Mostly I think I'd just like to make it enough times that it becomes my own.
If you'd like to take a look at a similar bread recipe, head over to Shelteriffic.  My friend Megan B. tested and reviewed 2 other no knead bread recipes.  You can see a picture of the hole structure of her bread and what I'd like mine to look like.  
I also got the olive oil and salt on top of the load idea from her.  Her recipes are always sublime, so take a minute and go check her out.
Happy baking!
Love from,

SInce it's Monday, and there are few things in life more lovely than homemade bread, I am linking up to Life Made Lovely Monday on Heather's Blog.  Go see.
Master Recipe for Boule (free form artisan loaf)
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 2/3 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all purpose white flour
Cornmeal for pizza peel

Use lukewarm water (about 100 degrees) and add water, yeast and salt to mixing bowl.
Mix in flour
Don't knead, just mix until all ingredients come together.
Cover and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours
Put dough in refrigerator to chill as chilled dough is easier to work with.
When ready to bake, sprinkle surface of dough with flour and pull off a grapefruit sized chunk (1pound).
Quickly roll the dough into a ball.
Let it rise for 40 minutes on a pizza peel (or cookie sheet) dusted liberally with cornmeal.
20 minutes before baking time, preheat oven and stone at 450.  Baking stone should be on the middle rack.  Place an empty pan for holding water on bottom rack of oven.
Dust top of bread with flour and, using a sharp knife, slash the top of the bread a few times.
Slide the bread from the peel onto the hot stone (this is harder with a rimmed cookie sheet and the dough may not slide right off.  do your best)
Pour one cup of hot water into a the pan placed on bottom rack of oven and close oven door immediately.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is a deep, golden brown color.
You can store remaining dough in the refrigerator for up to 14 days.


Katie @ minivan diva said...

This looks soo yummy. I want that book just to display the cover! The gift is awesome too! I love anything from Anthro. Sadly, I pretend shop on their website. Happy Monday, Greta!

Katie M. said...

They also have a healthy bread book! I got large enough containers at Smart&Final and they fit in the frig easily. Don't clean your containers and it will turn itself into sourdough! Yum!

Jami Nato said...

ohhhhhhhhhhhemmmmmmmmmmgeeeeeeeeee, i want to eat this bread now. i want this book as well.