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Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes A Day – My First Attempt

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The book, Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes A Day(ABin5), that advocates the making of good quality artisan bread at home quickly and easily has been on the retail shelves for quite some time.  But I have been using another No-Knead Bread Recipe and Video Demonstration from NY Times – without a single success.  I attributed my result of dense loaves with thick -PLUS – hard crust to the fact that I do not own a dutch oven to bake the bread, a necessity tool for the No-Knead recipe.  But I kept on trying, using any oven-safe cookwares available at home that comes with a lid.  What was I thinking?  But I realized that my few failed attempts have actually taught me quite a few things when I tried the Basic Master Recipe in ABin5.

So what did I learn?  First of all, do not fear a wet dough.  By comparison, the ABin5 master recipe was not as wet as the NY Times one.  I even had the ‘courage’ the add another half a cup of water when my dough did not appear as wet as the ones I have seen on the web.

Secondly, patience in bread making.  Having waited up to 18 hours for the dough to be ready in the other recipe, the 5 hours wait for this one seemed manageable.  In fact, I left the chilled dough in the fridge for one more day before I used it to bake my first loaf.   Why?  Because the recipe says that the dough can be kept up to 14 days in the fridge, and the taste of the bread will get better with an aging dough, taking on a similar characteristic of a sourdough.  While my bake with a 2-days-old dough did not taste anything like a sourdough, I could still feel its huge potential in churning out batches after batches of delicious batard, brioche, or even pizza base (that’s covered in their latest recipe book, Artisan Pizza And Flat Bread In 5 Minutes A Day).  In the meantime, I will chuck another bin of newly prepared dough to the back of the fridge for 10 days.  Ready for sourdough?

I have bookmarked the book’s official website in my computer.  The FAQ section offers many useful tips to make sure this wonderful recipe works.  I also noted that the 2 authors respond very promptly to readers who post their bread making questions on the website, and new recipes are often tried out and updated.  How about using a slow cooker to bake your bread?

Recipe for Artisan Bread – adapted from “Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes A Day” recipe book, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)

Yields 4 x 1lb loaf

– 3 cups lukewarm water
– 1 tablespoon granulated yeast (I used instant)
– 1 tablespoon salt
– 6 1/2 cups (2 lbs) all purpose flour

Preparing The Master Dough:

Put water, yeast and salt, in a plastic container.

Dump all flour at once and stir till the ingredients are just mixed, do not knead. (*1)

Cover lid, but do not snap shut, so that gas can escape from the container. (*2)

Allow the dough to rise for 2 hours in room temperature.  By now, the dough could rise up twice its original volume,  Bubbles will appear popping on the surface. (*3)  Do not punch down the dough.

The dough can now be used for baking.  Or it can be stored in the fridge with its cover (again, not tightly shut to allow gas to escape) for up to 14 days.  Chilling the dough will make it easier to manage.

Baking:

Preheat oven to 450F/230C, with a baking tray on the middle rack, and a broiler below.

Take out the dough from the fridge, and dust the surface with some flour, so that it won’t stick to your hands when retrieving the dough.

Pull out a piece of dough and cut out about the size of a grapefruit , or weigh 1lb.  Return the rest of the dough into the fridge.

Form the dough into a ball, gluten coated.  Sprinkle flour on surface as you go for easier handling, but take care not to incorporate the flour into the dough.  Handle the dough gently at this stage, do not knead, press or squeeze out the air that has expanded inside the dough.

Rest the shaped dough on a piece of parchment paper for 40minutes (*4)

Slash the loaf so that it does not split at the bottom during baking.

Place the dough with the parchment paper on the heated baking tray in the oven.  Throw some ice cubes on the broiler to produce steam.

Bake for 30-35minutes.

Remove the parchment paper after 20minutes of baking, and continue to bake the bread on the tray to create a crispy bottom crust.

Allow the loaf to cool completely on a rack to room temperature before slicing it.  Otherwise, the bread will end up with a hard crust and a gummy interior.

My Notes:-

(*1) The end result should not be in the consistency of a ball dough, if it does, add some water.  I added 1/2 cup more for this first attempt.

(*2) My container did not have a lid, so I used a cling wrap to cover the container.

(*3) For some reason, mine took 5 or 6 hours to reach this stage, which is fine, as some readers have indicated on the website.  Something to do with the amount or types of yeast, I guess.

(*4) The longer it rest, (e.g. 60 to 90 minutes), the more open whole structure it creates.  Take your preference.  And delay the time needed to start preheating your oven.

This video is useful to show how to prepare the dough (3:00) and shape a basic loaf (4:20).

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