Before starting this blog, I had never in my life baked a loaf of bread. Now, a little over a year later, I feel as though I have become somewhat of an accomplished junior baker. Here are a few of my highlights: rosemary focaccia, rustic Italian bread, and ciabatta. I have found bread-making to be quite soothing compared to other types of cooking. Partly because there are so few ingredients, but mostly because there is so much patience involved; waiting for the yeast to hydrate, and the dough to rise, then bake, then cool.
But for all the different types of loaves I’ve made, I have never been able to find a recipe that would allow me to bake bread mid-week. The problem is that all Chis Kimball’s recipes require at least four hours for the dough to rise, bake and cool. Even though I am home by 4pm, I still cannot have bread ready until 8pm. I even asked him during one of his ATK Q&A’s, but Chris’ only advise to me was for me to make non-yeasted biscuits. As if the two were even remotely similar.
So finally I checked Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes Per Day out from the library. (another article from author) In a nutshell, the book’s premise is: Once a week you mix up the dough (not counted in the 5 minutes), then throughout the week you use the pre-mixed dough to have bread ready in “just” 2 hours per day. The 5-minutes counts only active preparation; in all honesty, kind of an overly optimistic way to count the time. But the bottom-line is that this is the only way (so far) that I can accomplish my goal of having weekday bread ready by 6-pm.
At first I tried the basic recipe (described here). The recipe is good and simple. However, after eight or so loaves I wanted to move onto something a little more interesting. The past few batches I’ve been making the European Peasant Bread; the basic techniques are the same, and the recipe is below.
- The book says to measure the flour using the dip-and-sweep method, one cup at a time, for the greatest accuracy. However, my preferred measurement method is by weight. Not only is weighing more accurate, I also just dump straight from the bag into the mixing bowl bypassing the whole scooping thing.
- The book recommends using a 5-liter container, based upon the recipes as they are written. But my kitchen supply store made me choose between 4 and 6-liters. I chose 4-liters because I have a smallish refrigerator, so I generally reduce the recipes by 20%.
- The overall recipe says to use corn meal so that the bread does not stick to baking stone. In general, I am using parchment paper because it is easier to clean up.
- First time I made the recipe the bread had too dense a crumb (see photo at bottom of post). Here is a FAQ on what can cause a dense crumb. In my case the dough was too dry, so next time I added more water. The kitchen was also too cool, so I increase the resting time to 60 minutes.
- When I make a baguette-style loaf, I spray the loaf with my spray bottle in lieu if flouring the top. It results in a less-thick, but still crackly, crust.
- Finally, the “secret” of this recipe is autolyse. By using a very wet dough, there is no need to knead the bread. But because the dough is so wet, it is easier to shape after the dough has been refrigerated.
Cost: 22-cents per 1-pound loaf.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low.
Start time 4:00 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.
European Peasant Bread Recipe:
2-cups water, preferably non-chlorinated spring water.
1 tablespoon granulated yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/3 cup rye flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
3-2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Once a Week:
- Preheat water to 100-degrees; about 45 seconds in the microwave. Add yeast and salt to water, allowing it to hydrate while you measure out the flours.
- Place bowl of standing mixer on kitchen scale, and factor out the weight of the bowl. Add 1/3 cup rye flour
and 1/3 cup whole wheat flour to the bowl, then add unbleached all-purpose flour until the total weight of all the flours is 22-3/4 ounces.
- Using dough hook and standing mixer on lowest setting, slowly add water until it is fully incorporated. Do not knead. If you have any extra dough from the previous batch, add it to the mixer.
- Empty the dough into a 4-quart container and let sit at room temperature for 4 hours.
- Put container in refrigerator until ready to use.
Baking the Bread:
- Sprinkle the surface of the refrigerated dough with a little flour, which will make your dough easier to shape.
- Pull off a 1-pound chuck of dough and cut with a serrated knife.
- Quickly shape the dough into a ball by stretching the floured top around to the bottom. The idea here is to use the leave the floured surface on the exterior of the ball. The un-floured interior will quickly stick to itself, leaving you with a cohesive ball.
- Place ball on a piece of parchment paper placed on top of a pizza peel. Let rise for 40 minutes.
- 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 45-degrees. Place a baking stone (or a baking sheet) on middle rack, and an empty boiler pan on the bottom rack.
- Right before putting into the oven, dust the top of the loaf with flour (or spray/brush with water for baguette style crust). Use a serrated blade to score the top in any pattern; for example tic-tac-toe, cross or scallop pattern.
- Slide the loaf (parchment and all) onto the hot baking stone (or a baking sheet) . Put 1-cup of hot water into the pre-heated boiler tray, and immediately close the oven door to trap the steam.
- Let bake for 35 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cook on wire rack for at least 30-minutes.