Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Adventures in "Five Minute" Artisan Bread Baking

So I finally tested out the master boule recipe, which I have wanted to do since I first heard about it on the web. It's from a book that I don't own, called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Now, the first thing you need to know, is that it didn't take me five minutes a day to do this. It took much, much longer. Perhaps it will take less time later on after I get the hang of it.

As a cook who doesn't generally bake bread, the first thing I had to do was buy yeast, which was the easiest part, as it happens. Then I had to think for a couple of weeks about how to acquire a bread baking stone. Because I remembered my chef instructor telling me that breadstones were extremely expensive and that there were ways to acquire the same thing without shelling out your inheritance at Williams Sonoma, I asked Chef Avram Wiseman and he told me to measure my oven, then go to Home Depot and get a two-inch thick piece of brick, bluestone or concrete. Not wanting to think about how to find our measuring tape, I then I asked CKCA Pastry Chef Mark Hellermann the same question. He told me to go to a tile store and get a piece of unglazed tile.

Both those options seemed kind of complicated. Especially since I didn't even know tile stores existed. So I did was I usually do: I asked my mom. She said: "They're not THAT expensive. Use your Bed Bath and Beyond coupon."

So that's what I did! I got the Oneida pizza stone, which came with a handy dandy stand too. BB&B was selling it for $19.99 but I got it for about $15 with my coupon.

The other things I needed, I already had: flour, water, a container to both mix and store the dough, and a broiler pan to create steam during baking.

Now, with all the materials in place, I made the dough.

The recipe is as follows: 3 cups of warm water, 1 and a half packets yeast, 1 tbsp kosher salt, and 6 and a half cups of flour. Dissolve the yeast and salt in the water, then add the flour, mix and let sit for like 3 hours, then bake, or store in the fridge overnight. You can read more about the specifics of the recipe here at Global Gourmet.

(Note: Three hours followed by overnight is not five minutes, but I will grant you, the mixing part did not take long).

So the next day, I got up, (showered, got dressed, read the front page of the Wall Street Journal, checked my email, went to the cleaners), put my breadstone in the oven to preheat to 450 degrees, put my broiler pan in there too, so it would be ready to take the water to create steam, and then I shaped a grapefruit-sized ball of dough out of my refrigerated mixture, and placed it, with corn meal, on a pizza peel that I also got at Bed Bath and Beyond, specifically for this occasion. Then you have to let it rest for 40 minutes. Not five minutes, 40 minutes. How are people supposed to do this thing in five minutes a day if they don't work at home?

Anyway, I digress.

After the dough had rested and risen a bit again, it was time to bake. I carefully used my fancy pizza peel to place the dough on the breadstone, then added a cup of hot water to the broiler pan and tried to quickly close the oven door, as per directions, to trap the steam. Then I ran out of the house screaming as the smoke alarms in my house went on, upstairs and downstairs, due to the "steam." Nice.

Anyway, the bread was supposed to take about 30 minutes, and I should have left it in a little longer, perhaps 40 o 45, to really get a brown on the loaf. But the taste was pretty good. I think Alexander will like it a lot.

But it did NOT take 5 minutes.

Artisan Bread In Five Minute A Day on Foodista


  1. And as a bonus, you got a hilarious story out of it!

  2. I laughed my way through this. My experience is close to yours but I am not as far along, as your are. Thanks for making me feel better about my own inadequacy.

  3. What a beautiful loaf! I'm also experimenting with Artisan Bread in 5, working my way through recipes from the book that I've found on the Web.

    If you were super-gentle about taking off the hunk and forming the loaf (I love the term "gluten cloak"!), you could TRY skipping the 40 minute rest period... it doesn't really rise or change much during that time.

    Alternatively, form the loaf the night before you want to eat the bread and set it in the fridge to proof overnight. When your oven is hot, just whomp the bread straight from the fridge onto the stone.

    (I read recently that from the perspective of a 450-degree oven, the difference between room temp and fridge temp is NOT that significant)

    Anyway, worst-case scenario in both cases is that you end up with bread that's too dense and you never do it again.

    Now, off to check out the rest of your blog!