Back in February I ordered a few books from Amazon - one was Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois. I like the idea of artisan breads and in only 5 minutes? Hey, I'm game. Today I decided to try it out. The premise of the book is that with minimal work, you can have fresh-baked bread everyday (without a bread machine!). You make a batch of dough (the master recipe only calls for water, salt, yeast and flour!) and let it sit for two hours then refrigerate it for up to 14 days. Anytime you want a loaf of bread, you shape a piece of the dough (which takes about 30-60 seconds), let it rise for 40 minutes, pop it onto a hot stone in the oven and in about 1/2 an hour, you have a fresh-baked crusty bread! How easy is that!
I made the Master Recipe earlier today and it took about 10 minutes with very few dishes left to clean. I let it rise in the large 10L red Tupperware bowl I got for Christmas for just this purpose (Jay says the kids can use it to slide down the hills when I am not using it, it is that big!!). Then, before supper, I shaped my 1-pound loaf and let it rest. I am supposed to use a pizza peel but seeing as I don't own one (that must change!!), I used a cardboard pizza round.
40 minutes later, after slashing the bread, I slid that nicely shaped loaf onto the hot stone waiting in the oven. I added hot water to the pan that was awaiting me on the lowest rack in the oven and quickly shut the door. 30 minutes after that, I pulled out a marvelous looking crusty loaf of bread! Now, the recommendation is not to eat the loaf hot out of the oven but who can resist? Though it was tasty, next time I will wait for it to cool. After all, squishing your fresh-baked loaf while cutting it takes away some of the romance!
Two things I will change for next time. First of all, I will weigh the dough to ensure my loaf is 1 pound. A larger loaf requires a longer rest period and a longer bake time. I was just guessing. Secondly, I didn't bake it quite long enough. If the crust softens upon standing, you didn't bake it long enough. That's what happened to me. It is supposed to have a nice crusty outside and a soft crumb inside. The crumb was a bit tacky so it may have been underbaked. Apparently small bits of almost burnt crust are a good thing so next time I will wait for it to get a touch darker. Over all, it was a delicious loaf of bread and I can see myself enjoying such homemade wonders in so little time. Maybe when this batch of dough is done (I doubled the recipe so I have enough for 8 loaves!), I will try out the other bread book I bought, Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day.