Nearly 2 years ago, I was watching a friend’s two daughters while she had to work. We took a day trip to Barnes and Noble, my favorite haunt on any afternoon. I armed myself with a decaf, quad-shot Americano and treated them to hot chocolates so that they were temporarily distracted from begging. We split up, them to drool over American Girl Doll paraphernalia and me to the usual corner – cookbooks and fitness titles. I had a $30 gift card burning a hole in my pocket so I felt compelled to buy something.
Earlier that year, I had taken it upon myself to learn the art of bread baking. As an incentive I had given away the bread maker. My mother-in-law frequently inspired me with golden loaves of a million varieties; my mom had raised me on homemade bread – so from scratch that she actually ground her own wheat! So far, all of my attempts had been rather floppish. I had thrown away the equivalent of pounds of flour with each discouraging batch. So, when I spied a book called, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I laughed – and then fell for it.
I knew it had to be a gimmick, but I’m the queen of returns, so I figured I’d give it a shot and if it failed, bring it back for a more promising book. I made my selection just in time, as the two girls scampered toward me with their arms full of American Girl Doll books, outfits and audio. I escaped the store only by convincing them that I didn’t have anymore money – I didn’t – only a gift card.
I was so excited to begin my next baking disaster that I started that very evening. Short story – success! It works, nearly infallibly! I have been making loaves in five minutes a day for my neighbors, my husband, my co-workers and strangers. I’ve made bread bowls, and french baguettes and sweet cinnamon bread and granola bread for breakfast. In order to protect the mystique, and encourage you to eagerly comment on this post, I’m only going to share one recipe with you. This is the master recipe. It can be shaped and altered into any number of recipes, and there are other completely different recipes in the book too. Each one fits the premise – Five Minutes A Day.
So here goes:
In a 5-quart plastic container with a lid, mix 3 Cups of lukewarm water, 1.5 T salt and 1.5 T yeast. Mix in 6.5 Cups of flour. You may have to stir it in batches if you’re doing it by hand. You can use a mixer with a dough hook, but I’ve only ever used a wooden spoon and elbow grease. Don’t knead it! The dough will be wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of the container. Cover it with a not-airtight lid and allow it to sit on the counter for about 2 hours. (This doesn’t count as labor time.)
Two hours later toss the container in the fridge and forget about it until you want fresh, hot bread.
When you’re ready, remove a portion of the dough. You can plan on the recipe making about 4 1-pound loaves so remove about a fourth of the dough. It is an amount the size of a grapefruit. Lay the lump on a floured surface and sprinkle a little more flour on top. Spin the dough clockwise, carefully tucking the raw edges underneath to form a smooth ball. Let it sit for about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 and place a pan on the bottom of the oven that you can fill with water and allow a baking stone to heat in the oven as well. When you’re ready, slide your free-form dough ball onto a preheated baking stone. Fill the pan beneath with about 1 Cup of water and close the oven. Let it steam-bake for about 30 minutes. Take it out and ENJOY!
One small note here, all of the recipes in this book are free-form, part of the artisan appeal. My husband doesn’t like much crust and these loaves are usually pretty crunchy on the outside. You can shape your dough and put it into a loaf pan and bake it that way. I still recommend steaming it – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the difference from regular baking.
Let me know if you try this recipe – if you do, send me a picture! The first person to sent me a picture of their golden masterpiece will receive a free copy of the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day.