Friday, June 13, 2008

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

So I picked up this book in Borders the other day. Not because I thought it was likely to be brilliant (this is a no knead, low effort approach to bread baking that breaks every baking rule I have ever heard), but because in the unlikely event it actually did work as advertised it would be revolutionary.

Well, it's revolutionary.

If I had bought it from Amazon as I often do, I would have seen the glowing reviews and I might have been more eager to try the method (notice that the few negative reviews are obviously from people who didn't actually try it). But as it was it sat on my shelf until I found myself with a chunk of time to devote to it. Silly me, I didn't really need much of a chunk of time. You do need a couple of hours to prep the original dough (which goes in the fridge, to be used over and over), but most of the time is rising. Even the initial rising isn't critical, though, 2-5 hours. So just mix it up and go to the mall or something.

I have made just two loaves from the "master recipe", both simple small boules with slashes on the top and they were both great. I made them on both ends of doneness spectrum and they were both very good, although the more well done loaf had more character.

The only trick to this is that handling the very wet dough is quite tricky. I was not nearly liberal enough with the flour on the first loaf and ended up with a near terminal case of cooks club hand before I finally managed to shape a loaf. If you decide to try this method, a little visual aid might be helpful:

I used my kitchenaid with the dough hook, but from the video segment it appears that this was extreme overkill. I also used King Arthur bread flour, regardless of their advice. I will eventually try all purpose flour, I suppose, but my results were terrific, so I'm not really motivated to experiment.

The loaves were a bit misshapen, because I had some trouble releasing them from the peel. I think this was because I didn't use enough flour and the dough was wet enough to seep around the cornmeal. But they had visual character. :-)

I think the only real problem with this method is that it will tend to make flatish loaves because the dough is on the gooey side. But for breads where you can live with that I encourage you to give it a go.

The author who came up with the idea, by the way, is not a baker. He is a doctor who's career has dabbled in things like IT. Go figure.



jhertz10 said...

Thanks for trying our stuff, David, I really appreciate it. I'm Jeff Hertzberg, one of the co-authors. Come visit us on our blog at if you have any questions. You can post questions into any "Comments" field, or into the "Bread Questions" gateway on the left side of the home page.

Jeff Hertzberg

David said...

Thanks Jeff. I will definitely add your blog to my RSS reader. I am sure I will eventually have questions, but so far things seem to mostly work as advertised.