Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Did It! I Made My Own Artisan Bread!

A couple of years ago, my husband was looking for a new creative hobby,  one that didn't require a ton of time or a large financial investment.  As we sat talking one evening, I said, "You love bread!  Why don't you learn to make bread?  I saw this book at the library about making bread in 5 minutes a day.  Maybe you could try it."

Well, he tried it, and it was great!  Very similar to that yummy bread at Panera or from the bakery at Giant Eagle.  The problem?  It was so deliciously yummy that the baby #3 pounds I had worked so hard at getting off through Weight Watchers started coming back on.  I have a weakness for homemade bread.  The 5 minute bread process was easy, but it made a large quantity of dough.  The idea behind the method was that by making a large batch of dough that could be refrigerated, you could have fresh bread daily without having to go through the work of making dough daily.  We started eating this bread often to use up the large quantities of dough he would make, until I asked him to stop baking for the sake of my backside.  Slightly discouraged, John quit making bread and moved on to other hobbies.

One of the things I love about reading food blogs is that I'm inspired or challenged to think about foods in a new way.  Mom on a Mission writes often about her love of the 5 minute bread dough that she has adapted for so many of her easy recipes, so I decided to again check out the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois from our local library.  I set a goal for myself to do some more research and learn to bake a good loaf of artisan bread by the end of January.

On January 31, after reading the book, consulting some tips on the Internet, and reading this post on Mom on a Mission about baking multiple loaves of artisan bread, I decided to give it a try.  The 3 year old and I mixed together this easy dough in less than 5 minutes.  We covered it with a towel during our playdate with a friend, formed the risen dough into 4 small round loaves after lunch, took a bike ride in the unseasonably warm afternoon while the oven preheated, put the loaves into the oven, and 30 minutes later we had 4 perfect loaves of artisan bread!  Plus our house smelled like Panera!

This bread could not have been easier to put together, and I love the fact that the recipe was pretty much foolproof.  No worrying about if I had it kneaded enough; no kneading is necessary.  No weird ingredients; just flour, salt, yeast, and water.  No fancy mixing utensils; just a large bowl and a wooden spoon.  Thanks to the tips from Mom on a Mission, I did not even bake the loaves on a baking stone as was directed in the book.  I just used parchment paper, and the bread turned out fine.  It was still crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, slightly dense texture. . . perfect!  We ate one loaf with our dinner, and I gave a loaf to each of the girls' teachers at their respective music lessons that evening.  The 4th loaf was wrapped and put into the freezer, although I could have easily eaten at least 1/2 of the loaf that night by myself! 

Having success with this first batch got my recipe wheels turning, and I can't wait to try out some other variations.  A loaf every now and then can be worked into my weight management plan.  In the meantime, I highly suggest you add yeast and a bag of flour to your shopping list this week and make a batch of this easy bread dough soon.  

Here's the recipe:

5 Minute Artisan Bread
3 cups of lukewarm water (100 degrees; I tested it using a thermometer just to be sure)
1 1/2 Tbsp yeast (the kind in a jar, not the packets)
1 1/2 Tbsp Kosher salt
3 1/2 cups all purpose white flour
3 cups white whole wheat flour
(You can also substitute with 6 1/2 cups white flour; I tried to make it a bit healthier)

1.  Pour the water into a large mixing bowl.
2.  Stir in the yeast and salt in the water with a wooden spoon.  (It's okay if it does not all dissolve).
3.  Using a scoop and sweep method, add the flour to the bowl.  (Scoop the flour from a large container into your measuring cup and then sweep the top of the measuring cup with the back of a butter knife to level it off)
4.  Using a large wooden spoon, mix the flour into the liquid until there are no more dry spots.  DO NOT KNEAD; JUST MIX!
5.   Place a cover lightly over the bowl, and let the bowl sit on the counter for 2 hours or so.

At this point, you can either refrigerate the dough as described in the book or go ahead and make a loaf (or 2 or 3 or 4) at this time.  I like to make things as easy as possible, so I just went ahead and made all 4 loaves.  It worked like a charm.

To turn the dough into bread, follow these easy steps:
1.  Tear off 4 sections of parchment paper, place them on your counter, and sprinkle lightly with corn meal.
2.  Divide your dough into 4 sections using a serrated knife. 
3.  With a little flour on your hands, take one section (about the size of a grapefruit) and stretch it and quickly tuck the ends under to form a small round loaf.
4.  Place the loaf on a piece of parchment paper.  Repeat with the remainder of the dough.
5.  Place your broiler pan on the bottom shelf of your oven and place an inch or so of water in the pan.
6.  Turn your oven on 450 while your bread loaves "rest" on the counter for 30-40 minutes.  (I have a good oven, but it still took nearly 30 minutes to get to 450.)
7.  Lightly dust the tops of the loaves with flour and pull a serrated knife through the top to make slits or a tic tac toe board.  (I forgot this step, and they turned out fine)
7.  After 30-40 minutes and when your oven temperature reaches 450, carefully put the parchment paper and the bread loaves on the oven shelf.  (I was able to get 4 loaves on one shelf in the middle of the oven.)
8.  Bake for 30 minutes until browned. 
9.  Remove from oven carefully and let cool on wire racks.
10.  Slice with a serrated knife once completely cool.

Enjoy with butter, dipping oil, or plain.  It's just scrumptious any old way!  Give an extra loaf to a favorite person in your life, or put them away in the freezer to enjoy another day.

In all the excitement, I forgot to take a photo of the baked bread loaf!  The bread came out of the oven just as I was leaving to go to school to pick up the girls and then one daughter had an afterschool club meeting, both girls had music lessons, and we had math night at the girls' school in the evening.  I'm not used to capturing every moment of my kitchen adventures on camera yet.  Here it is sliced up on our dinner plate, however. 

Baked Ziti, Caesar Salad, Grapes, and Artisan Bread

What's your favorite way to enjoy artisan bread?

No comments:

Post a Comment