Thu 14 May 2009
At the risk of sounding hopelessly smug, I’m going to tell you that we haven’t bought a loaf of bread in nearly a year. People sometimes ask me if we have a bread maker, and it takes all the control I can muster not to shout YES AND HER NAME IS BRIA. You do not need a machine to make what you can easily accomplish with a big bowl and your own two hands. Besides, bread machines take up precious counter space, cost a lot more than a bowl, and (depending on the model) can make absurdly-shaped loaves.
I am going to cut to the chase here and demand that you make this bread before a week has passed. This is fantastic stuff, and it is a perfect gateway bread that will build your confidence and earn you the admiration of friends and enemies alike. It will also airbrush your skin and help you make friends while losing lots of weight. Oprah eats this bread daily. I myself lost 30 pounds of belly fat by making this bread.
Or maybe it’s just delicious. These are beautiful, artisan loaves – no two will look alike, and they will grow and change in the oven to surprise you upon their completion. I lovingly call it Lazy Bread, as you don’t knead it or do much more than arrange it a few times and send it on its merry, baking way. The total duration of time involved is around 4 hours, but the hands-on time is really minimal. Get a batch of dough going and go about your day while it naps. The yeast will do its thing without you; just help it find a nice shape and get it into the oven. The bread will do the rest.
Enjoy as toast, with soup, or alongside a hearty pasta. Better yet, dip it in a fragrant olive oil as you sip wine and try to remember what life was like before you started making bread for yourself. If the picture is hazy, let it fade into your subconscious as a quaint remembrance of Life Before Good Bread.
Artisan Bread, d/b/a Lazy Bread
Makes 3 small loaves
Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)
1 ½ T active dry yeast (two packets)
1 ½ T Kosher salt
6 ½ cups AP flour, plus more for dusting
3 cups warm (not hot) water
Note: I’m introducing a new feature with this recipe. It’s call the Rundown. This is the birds-eye overview of where you are going in the recipe. It’s so easy to get mired in the details of a recipe without a clear, overarching view of where we’re going. I thought it might help to see the recipes holistically at the outset.
- Mix the dough
- Rest for 2 hours
- Shape the loaves
- Rest for 40 minutes, heating the oven after 20
- Bake for 30 minutes
In a large bowl, mix the yeast and salt into the water. Stir in the flour and continue to mix until fully incorporated. The dough will be shaggy and soft, almost more like a batter than a dough. If you tried to pick it up, it would be very sticky. Cover with a dish towel and allow to rise at room temperature for at least 2 hours. If you need the time, you can let it keep rising for up to 5 hours.
Once the dough has risen, either bake it or refrigerate it. You can safely keep it in the fridge in a sealed container for up to two weeks. If you refrigerate it, allow to warm up on the counter for 30 minutes or so before following the rest of the steps.
Before shaping, sprinkle cornmeal on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flour your hands and scoop the dough out onto a lightly floured counter or cutting board. To shape the loaves, sprinkle flour over the dough and cut into three equal pieces. You will then shape them into oblong-ish rounds. To do this, pick up one of the pieces in your hands and cradle it in your fingers. Using the slight tackiness of the dough, pull the dough gently around itself, stretching it as you go, until you have a smooth, rounded side underneath and a lumpy side facing up where you can gather together the excess. This lumpy bit is the bottom. If this just isn’t making sense to you, just try to get the dough into three relatively equal, relatively oval shapes. It’s very forgiving once it hits the oven, so if you find yourself starting at three big blobs that don’t fit your expectations, hang in there. The beauty will come in the baking. (Also, see the top loaf in the picture below…not exactly a looker, but it baked up to become the loaf on the right in the picture at the top of this post. Not too shabby, eh? And even if it’s ugly, just remember what Julia Child tells us in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in her delightful recipe for baguettes - it will still taste like bread.)
Place the loaf, lumpy-side down, on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining loaves. Cover with a clean dishtowel and allow to nap for 40 minutes. Be sure to space the loaves a few inches apart, as it will continue to rise during this time.
When the loaves have been napping for 20 minutes, move one oven rack to the middle position and one to the bottom. If you are using a baking stone, place it on the middle rack now. If you don’t have one, don’t worry about it. Place a broiler pan or cast-iron skillet on the lower rack. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. We want the stone and broiler pan to be really hot, so let this keep heating for the remaining 20 minutes until the dough is ready.
Dust the dough with flour or cornmeal (if you choose the latter, go light). Using a very sharp knife, make two or three diagonal slashes across the top of each loaf. Place the loaves in the oven (either leave them on the sheet where the are or transfer them to the stone with a baking peel). Carefully pour one cup of very hot water in the broiler pan and shut the oven door quickly.
Bake for 30 minutes, and resist the urge to open the oven door until then. Check the loaves – if they are deep golden brown, they are done. If not, let them cook for another 5 minutes or so until they are beautiful.
Allow the loaves to cool on a rack or a clean dish towel. Though it will be very difficult, try not to eat them for at least 20 minutes. The texture will be better if you wait.
Because there is no added fat in the dough, this bread will not keep well more than three or four days. Then again, if you have a hard time making your way through this bread, please email me so we can talk about how exactly you are able to resist gorgeous, delicious artisan bread; I would like to bottle whatever it is you have as I think we could make millions in the weight loss products market.
21 Responses to “ A Brave New World | Artisan Bread for Beginners ”
Trackbacks & Pingbacks:
[...] Original post by The Salty Spoon [...]
[...] beautiful loaves from