Sweet success...this bread, I love! 5 Minute-a-Day Bread, I love you! Jeff Hertberg and Zoe Francois, authors of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, I love you, and now I shall go and buy your book!
You see, I found so much mention of this great and easy bread all over blogs and the internet, it was inevitable and I had to try it...finally. The "Artisan" part was a hook, but the real clincher was the "5 Minutes."
But the "No Knead" was what initially threw me off...
You see, I have a confession to make. It's sorry, lame, and ugly, but here it is...
I never liked No Knead Bread. I had a BBNKE (Bad, bad no-knead experience), and it took me a while to recover. I must beg humble apologies of Jim Lahey, the mastermind of the No Knead phenomenon.
Yes, I'm talking the dummy-proof bread that nearly every American now makes in their dutch ovens with, of course, no prior kneading.
I tried it, and it was a catastrophic flop. It's all my own fault...I must have done something wrong. And because I immediately moved on to loaf breads in search of the Great American Farm Bread Loaf, I never went back to try to correct my dismal failure.
And I do mean dismal. (Unless you're in the market for a reallllyyyy effective doorstop) I mean, you don't want to have to go register every time you want to bake bread, but the loaf I managed to turn out when trying the No Knead Bread should have required a license to handle...it was surely a deadly weapon.
Anyway, I'll return to the No Knead someday, and give it a better try. Till then, I'll be using this 5 Minute-a-Day bread because it actually seems to be Robbyn-proof...and it turned out to be delicious :)
You can access the basic boule recipe at the link above, and it's only 4 ingredients long...yeast, kosher salt, flour, water. You mix it in a roomy container and then cover. After an initial rise you can go ahead and cook with it or store it in the fridge for later access for up to two weeks. I've done this with cookie dough before, and really enjoy having stash of dough ready to scoop and pop into the oven when needed. With this bread dough, it only needs a 40 minute rise and into the oven it goes!
It took me a minute to get the hang of it, but you have to cut off a grapefruit-sized lump and form it into a ball, which is easy. The only tricky part was that it needs a good pile of flour and some floury hands to plop it into so the surface can be formed lightly without sticking all to your hands. Or you'll find your fingers stuck together in some breadmaker's version of the Swamp Thing... Above is a picture of the dough lightly formed into ball (boule) shape, and liberally dusted with flour. It's perched atop a generous layer of cornmeal, on an upside-down cookie sheet, my southern girl substitute for a pizza peel. While this rises, you have a baking stone preheating in a 450F oven on the middle rack, and you situate the bottom part of a broiler pan on the bottom rack. When it's risen 40 minutes, you slash the top of the dough ball a few times with a serrated knife, about 1/4" deep, to allow for expansion during cooking. Then you try to gracefully slide the whole unit onto the heated peel. Then you put a cupful of hot tap water into the broiler pan and quickly close the oven door on the whole shebang so that the bread crust will have its own nice little sauna as it bakes to a crispy exterior, and wonderful soft, lofty interior.
I had to remove the baking stone from the oven (with oven mitts), onto the stovetop (since I didn't want my raw dough to plop accidentally somewhere off-target in the maw of my very hot oven) before going further, then tilt my cookie sheet while getting a little momentum going via a metal spatula...and then the dough slid pretty well onto the baking stone. And into the oven it went to cook for 30 minutes. Here's the finished product, yay!!
For anyone who's followed my blog for a while, we had to make a big cutback in the amount of bread and flour we eat on a daily basis. We've done pretty well at that.
I have noticed that there are times we were buying a loaf of bread here and there at the supermarket to use for sandwiches, toast, etc on a limited basis. Even though our consumption of flour has gone way down, I wasn't pleased to be paying store prices even sporadically for something as basic as bread, that's so easy to make at home for so much less cost. Plus, there are no preservatives when I make it myself.
So this is what we're doing. I'm glad to have a recipe now that I can make as needed and store in the fridge in the interim. That's what we do with our kombucha (we bottle some for the fridge and store the rest at room temp), and it works very well for us. I'm delighted to find this versatile bread, and I'll pass it down to my daughter and anyone who's not likely to begin with a bread that needs kneading. I'll still make a good farm loaf now and then, but I'm delighted that this one will fill the bill for pizza dough, breadsticks, sandwiches, and pita...so very easily.