Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Confession: I am addicted to 5-minute artisan bread

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It's official: My husband and I are both addicted to the basic boule from the must-own book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois have changed our lives.

Well, okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. But we have been eating a lot of awfully good bread at home with very little effort.

The "aha" principle is this: Gluten, which gives good bread its lovely chewy texture, develops with either agitation or time. Knead the dough, develop gluten. Alternatively, mix up a thick soup of water, yeast, salt and flour, let it sit in the refrigerator for a few days (or weeks), and what do you get? Gluten. Plus that great sourdough flavor. Oh, and it takes about five minutes to mix up the dough, five minutes to shape a loaf, and a few "Bob's your uncle"s later, you've got bread.

I do depart from their recipe in a few ways. First, I let my loaf rest on the counter after shaping for a good long time - four or five hours, sometimes. And second, when I heat the oven, I stick my cast-iron Dutch oven in there, let it get good and hot, and then bake the loaf right in the iron pot. I bake it covered for half an hour to trap the moisture, then remove the cover for the last 15 minutes to let the loaf brown.

Trust me: Anyone can make this bread. The only part that takes practice is shaping the loaves before baking, and it's just not that hard.

So, in case I wasn't clear enough at the beginning, buy this book. You will not be sorry.


Anonymous said...

It looks soooo good. I would like a bite.


Eric said...

Don't know if you are a rye bread fan, but their recipe yields results that remind me of Flakowitz in Jericho.

Erika Kerekes said...

Verababa - I will happily bake you some of this luscious bread when you visit!

Rick - I haven't made the rye yet because Michael hates caraway seeds and I don't see the point of rye without them. On most food matters we see eye to eye, but this is a dealbreaker. Oh well. We both love the boule.

Anonymous said...

Would like to try this, but how do you transfer the boule to the dutch oven after such a long rise? I am picturing something holey as a seasponge and wobbly like a souffle. . ..

Erika Kerekes said...

Yes that's exactly what it's like. I let it rise on a piece of floured parchment paper and then dump the whole thing, paper and all, into a preheated Dutch oven. I put the lid on for the first 30 minutes, then take it off for the last 20-ish (depending on how big the boule is). Sometimes it sticks to the parchment, sometimes not. You could also try spraying the parchment with nonstick cooking spray before flouring.

Hope that helps....

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