As you can probably tell, I love to make homemade bread. As far as I'm concerned, nothing beats the wonderful, home-baked flavor, let alone the delicious aroma that fills the house. Even my dog goes crazy and starts whimpering for fresh baked bread.
I have several tried and true recipes that I rotate for our weekly loaves. A wonderful oatmeal loaf, fresh herb and whole wheat, but sometimes I find myself longing for something new. So this week I'm on a bread baking mission to find some new favorites.
The first step is with a new book that I picked up last weekend. It's called Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. What you do is make up a big batch of dough (which is stirred, but not kneaded), and refrigerate it for up to two weeks. When you want a loaf of bread, you pull off a portion of the dough and shape and bake it (hence the "five" minute part). The no knead idea is not new, but I really like their idea of bulk dough and I'm excited to try some of the great looking recipes in the book. With a busy schedule, it's a dreamy thought to be able to just grab some dough out of the fridge and bake away. Lately I've even resorted to buying bread, as I think about making it too late in the day (and we're already out of bread at that point). We go through a lot of bread in our house, and it's almost blasphemous if we don't have it in the morning for school sandwiches.
Jay and I have tried the Cook's Illustrated version of the NY Times No-Knead Bread, and although fairly easy, there are a lot of steps and you have to plan a day ahead of time to make it. I'm thinking that the recipes in this new book might work well combined with the baking method from the NY Times (cast iron Dutch oven in a really hot oven). Needless to say, I've got lots of ideas.
I'm going to put up a batch today of the basic bread recipe in this new book, and I'll be sure to post my results. Although I want to first try the recipe as written, I'm kind of tempted to tinker with it a little bit, possibly adding a bit of beer as part of the liquid (like the Cook's Illustrated recipe), some white wheat flour and maybe some chopped fresh rosemary and garlic to the basic dough. Here is the basic recipe, which I found on the New York Times website. Hopefully it's alright to post it here.
Another thing that I really like about this book is that it also includes many other doughs with this same technique, like bagel and pretzel doughs, whole grain, wheat, etc... How cool would it be to just bake off a few fresh bagels on the weekend as you need them. I am very excited about the possibilities. Oh what will I do with all of my extra free time?
Simple Crusty Bread (as printed in the New York Times)
Published: November 21, 2007
Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)
Time: About 45 minutes plus about 3 hours’ resting and rising
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.
4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.
Yield: 4 loaves.
Variation: If not using stone, stretch rounded dough into oval and place in a greased, nonstick loaf pan. Let rest 40 minutes if fresh, an extra hour if refrigerated. Heat oven to 450 degrees for 5 minutes. Place pan on middle rack.
Edit to add: I stirred up a batch of the basic dough, and resisted the urge to tinker with it. I thought that I would have a better feel for this recipe if I followed it to a tee. Then next time I can tinker away.