Thursday, November 5, 2009

Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day - Crusty White Sandwich Loaf

Whenever I get one of those surveys that asks you "What's your favorite..." and it asks for my favorite smells, one of them is always the smell of bread baking in the oven (fresh ground coffee is another in case you are interested). Before I got a bread machine for Christmas one year I used to make bread. Not often, but every once in a while the mood would strike me and I would get all my ingredients out and spend the afternoon working with dough. I don't think there is much else as satisfying as mixing flour, salt, sugar, water and yeast and ending up with a loaf of crusty bread. But, it's a bit of work. All that kneading and rising and punching and kneading. I am not against work...I clean houses for a living and believe me, that is work. But, I stopped making fresh bread by hand and only used the bread machine. Then, even that fell by the way side. Maybe it was because you don't get your hands on the bread, don't get to play with it so to speak. Don't get me wrong, bread in a bread machine is still fresh baked, but not quite the same as when I made it the "old fashion" way.

Then I came across a post from a friend of mine who had made fresh baked Pumpkin Pie Brioche, using a recipe from "Healthy Bread in 5 minutes a day". (That almost seems like an oxymoron, healthy and pumpkin pie in the same sentence!) I made the bread (see my earlier post about Sweet Melissa Sundays and bread pudding) and decided I had to have the cookbook. Turned out there was an earlier cookbook, "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day". I bought them both.

Yesterday one of my cleaning customers canceled and I decided to take the "free" time (like there is any such thing) and try a recipe from "Artisan Bread...".  Figured I would keep it simple. I was planning on grilled pork chops, scallop potatoes and broccoli for dinner and thought some fresh baked bread would be a perfect addition to everything else.

I kept it simple, choosing a white bread recipe. I had all the ingredients on hand. Being a baker means there is always flour, salt and yeast in the house. The only other ingredient needed was warm water. I had the dough mixed up and resting on the counter in no time. No kneading required with this bread. Just cut a hunk of the rested dough from the container it is in, shape into a ball, and then an oval. Drop in a loaf pan (that is how I chose to bake mine, though you can bake it as a round if you like), let it rest a bit longer then pop in the oven.

The bread was ready in 35 minutes. The crust was brown, cracked, crusty. The interior was soft, but not spongy. Rustic looking, with lots of small holes throughout. When you bit into the bread, you were first rewarded with a crisp, chewy crust and then an almost creamy texture from the bread itself. It was more substantial than the breads I have made in the bread machine. It held up to slicing much better, not flattening out when you tried to cut a slice and not crumbling apart. It actually took me back to Germany and the wonderful breads I ate while there on a recent trip. If this simple white bread recipe is any indication of what's to come as I delve deeper into each of the books, I can not wait! And, the best part? It really is simple, quick and easy to have fresh baked bread in no time at all.

I have posted the recipe below. The first part is the "Master Recipe". You will need that to make the Crusty White Sandwich Loaf.

The Master Recipe : Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)
Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved. 

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop and sweep method
Cornmeal for pizza peel

Mixing and Storing the Dough
1. Warm the water slightly: It should feel just a little warmer than body temperature, about 100*F. Warm water will rise the dough to the right point for storage in about 2 hours. You can use cold tap water and get an identical final result; then the first rising will take 3 or even 4 hours. That won't be too great a difference, as you will only be doing this once per stored batch.

2. Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart bowl, or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container or food-grade bucket. Don't worry about getting it all to dissolve.

3. Mix in the flour - kneading is unnecessary: Add all of the flour at once, measuring it in with dry-ingredient measuring cups, by gently scooping up flour, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula;don't press down into the flour as you scoop or you'll throw off the measurement by compressing. Mix with a wooden spoon, a high-capacity food processor (14 cup or larger) fitted with a dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the mixture is uniform. If you're hand-mixing and it becomes too difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, you can reach into your mixing vessel with very wet hands and press the mixture together. Don't knead! It isn't necessary. You're finished when everything is uniformly moist without dry patches. This step is done in a matter of minutes, and will yield a dough that is wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.

4. Allow to rise: Cover with a lid (not airtight) that fits well to the container you're using. Do not use screw-topped bottles or Mason jars, which could explode from the trapped gases. Lidded plastic buckets designed for dough storage are readily available. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature approximately 2 hours, depending on the room's temperature and the initial water temperature. Longer rising times, up to about 5 hours, will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period. Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature. So, the first time you try our method, it's best to refrigerate the dough overnight (or at least 3 hours), before shaping a loaf.

Crusty White Sandwich Loaf
      This variation will give you some experience baking high-moisture dough in a loaf pan. You must use a nonstick pan; they work well but still require a light greasing. Wet dough usually sticks miserably to traditional pans no matter how much you grease them.
Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 pounds (cantaloupe-size portion) Boule dough
Neutral-tasting oil for greasing the pan

1. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2 pound (cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Lightly grease a 9x4x3-inch nonstick loaf pan with a neutral-flavored oil.

2. Elongate the ball into an oval and drop it into the prepared pan. You want to fill the pan slightly more than half full. (I ended up putting two balls end to end in the prepared pan and they baked together to form one loaf)

3. Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour and 40 minutes; (or just 40 minutes if you're using fresh, unrefrigerated dough). Dust with flour and slash the top crust with the tip of a serrated bread knife.

4. Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450*F, with an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread. A baking stone is not essential when using a loaf pan; if you omit it, you can shorten the preheat by 5 minutes.

5. Place the loaf on a rack near the center of the oven. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 35 mnutes, or until brown and firm.

6. Remove the loaf from the pan and allow to cool completely on a rack before slicing or eating.


  1. OH MY...your bread looks fabulous! My favorite recipe is the AB5 Semolina Bread!!!!!!

  2. Can I come over for dinner ;) I haven't had scalloped potatoes in ages!! The bread looks wonderful and I love how little time was involved in preparing it.

  3. That bread looks marvelous! I don't have the original AB in 5, but I just bought the Healthy Bread in 5 and can't wait to give it a shot!

  4. This bread looks to die for! I am so impressed!


Please let me know what you think. I love to hear from other bakers.