Once upon a time, a handsome prince gave me a magic book. It was called Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and it was filled with magic recipes. I made lots and lots of magic bread, and lo, it was delicious.
One day, I added the most magic of herbs to the recipe - and lo, it was smack-yo-mama good.
After much pleading and petitioning from friends who had also fallen under the spell of this magic bread, I finally managed to share its secrets. Here they are. And may there never be a The End to your enjoyment of this tasty bit of heaven.
- There is no kneading. And everyone rejoiced.
- This is a wet dough that you keep in the fridge for up to a week, maybe 10 days. So you need a large bowl with a lid to keep it in. You can use plastic wrap, but a lid is just easier.
- The recipe makes up to 4 loaves, but you can easily double or halve it.
- There is also a New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book - and I have it. The Master Boule Recipe (yes, it's called that) is slightly different from the old book, but I haven't made it that way yet.
- The original recipe calls for a meager teaspoon of your favorite herb. Pffft! I add about 2 generous tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary - and you know you love it.
- Yeast: I use rapid-rise yeast - it, well, works more rapidly than regular yeast. You can get the little paper packets, but they don't contain that much, so you have to rip open a lot of them. I buy a jar of granulated yeast and keep it in the fridge.
- This recipe is super easy if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, and a baking stone. You can do it by hand with a dough whisk, or use the dough blade on a food processor that is rated to handle heavy dough. (Halve the recipe if your processor bowl has less than a 14-cup bowl.) I have not done it with either of those methods, but the magic book says you can.
- Storing your bread: If you don't devour a whole loaf in one sitting, there's a weird trick to storing the leftovers properly. Put the cut side down onto a dinner plate. That's it. Don't bag it or wrap it in foil or plastic. That makes the crust soft. You do need to finish the leftovers by the next day - with no preservatives in it, it will turn into a beautiful brick or doorstop.
(adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day)
Makes 4 1-pound-ish loaves
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (NOT table salt!!)
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
Cornmeal or parchment paper
Pizza peel or large baking sheet
Mix on low until the mixture is uniformly moist. It'll only take a few minutes. The dough should be wet and fairly loose.
Put the dough into your large bowl and cover with a lid. It shouldn't be air tight. If you're using plastic wrap, just cover the bowl loosely with it.
Let the dough rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until the dough begins to collapse. (If your room is typically cool, you can turn the oven on low and create a little ambient warmth.)
Once the dough has risen, stick the bowl into the fridge. Then go do something fun for a few hours. Or days. You can keep the dough in the fridge for about a week before it gets too yeasty. Technically, you can use the dough right after it's done rising, but it's super sticky and frustrating to work with. I recommend prepping the dough the night before you want to bake.
When you want to make some bread, this is what you do:
Prep a pizza peel or large baking sheet with cornmeal or parchment paper to prevent the dough from sticking. Be generous with the cornmeal. You will swear profusely if your perfectly formed loaf sticks and pulls and gets distorted as you try to slide it onto the baking stone.
Dust the dough with a handful of flour. Pull up and cut off a grapefruit sized portion of dough (use a serrated knife or kitchen shears). I'm bad at guesstimating how big a grapefruit is, so I usually just visually quarter the dough - or even tap lines into the dough with my fingers, marking it into 4 quarters.
Now, here's the hardest part of this whole thing. And it's not that hard once you've done it a time or two. I'm quoting from the book here so I don't mess you up: "Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go…(A) correctly shaped loaf will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more that 20 to 40 seconds - don't work the dough longer or your loaves may be dense."
So - hold the dough wad in both hands. Think of it as a clock - gently stretch the dough at the 3 o'clock position. Pull it out, then under, tucking the pulled side under. Rotate the dough a quarter turn, then repeat the stretching at the 3 o'clock position. Then tuck. Do that 2 more times.
I don't have pictures of this because 1) can't take a picture with dough in both hands, and 2) I usually make this before anyone else is up and the cats refuse to learn how to operate the camera.
Once you've shaped your loaf, put it on the prepared peel (or pan) and let it rest for about 40 minutes. (Put your remaining dough back in the fridge for another day.)
|Resting in a Zen-like state.|
While it's resting, put your baking stone on the middle rack of your oven. Put an empty metal broiler tray on the rack underneath it. (Never use a glass pan for this.) Set the oven temp to 450 and let the baking stone preheat for 30 minutes or so.
After the resting/preheating phase, liberally dust the top of your loaf with flour. Use a serrated knife to slash a 1/2-inch deep pattern into the dough - 3 slashes, a cross, tic-tac-toe, etc. Don't belabor this step - just a quick slash-slash-slash will do the trick.
Get about a cup of hot tap water ready.
Slide the loaf onto the preheated stone. Sometimes you have to jiggle the peel a bit to get the dough off of it.
|If you do 2 at a time, don't place them too close together.|
Quickly pour the water into the metal pan and close the oven door. This traps the steam and helps the bread to finish rising.
Slide them out with your peel or baking sheet. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. You can eat it right away, but it's a little harder to slice, and it tends to taste even better after it's cooled.
And when you feed this magic bread to the peasants, they will extol your virtues and sing your praises with their mouths full of rosemary goodness. And you will all live happily ever after.