Sunday, January 4, 2009

Daily bread

Yay for Christmas presents, especially when they're new cookbooks!  I've mentioned before that I have a lot of cookbooks.  So I have no idea where I'm going to put these new ones.  =)  But I'll figure something out.  The two new ones bring my collection of bread-specific books to four.  I already had The Bread Bible and The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  I've had The Bread Bible for quite a while, but haven't baked that much out of it.  I was kind of intimidated by it at first--it's a pretty impressive tome.  I should really go back through it now that I've got more bread baking experience.  I bought The Bread Baker's Apprentice back in May, and I really like it.  I've made a number of the recipes from it, although not all of them have made it as far as the blog (like the Italian Bread post that's been sitting in draft for a couple months).  

So it was pretty safe for Jamie to point his parents in the direction of my Amazon wishlist, where there were a couple other Peter Reinhart books.  They were nice enough to send me a copy of Crust and Crumb.  I've just started reading it, and I'm sure that I'll be making some of the recipes soon.

Jamie decided to look for books similar to what I have on my list but not actually on there.  He always does such a great job picking stuff that I'll like that I haven't actually considered for myself.  (He's the one who bought me The Bread Bible before I even knew it was out.  The Secrets of Baking is another favorite that he got me.)  He gave me a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  As I started looking through it Christmas morning, I realized that I'd seen references to it on a lot of other food blogs, but I'd never even looked at it at the bookstore.  The idea introduced in the book is that it's easy to have fresh bread with minimal daily effort when you make a large batch of dough and store it in your fridge for up to two weeks.  

It's an understatement to say that I'm thrilled with this gift!  I think Jamie was surprised and impressed that I started my first batch of dough on Christmas Day.  =)  I hadn't read through the entire book, so I just started with the Master Recipe Boule.  The process is pretty straightforward--I mixed together water, yeast, salt and flour with my dough hook in my stand mixer.  I transferred the dough to one of my Cambro buckets that I use for dough and left it on the counter to rise for a couple hours.  I quickly learned that when they say that you should use at least a 5-quart container, they mean it. =)  My container was only 4 quarts, and the dough tried to push the lid off!  I was able to get by with stirring the dough to deflate it a bit so it would stay in the container.  

I pulled out enough dough for the first loaf and stuck the rest in the fridge.  This is definitely a sticky dough.  I shaped it into a boule and placed it on a sheet of parchment paper on top of my peel.  (I find that's a great trick for dealing with very wet doughs so you don't have to worry about them sticking to the peel.)  Once the dough had time to rise some, I preheated the oven with my baking stone on the lower middle rack and put the bottom of my broiler pan on the top rack for the water (I think the use of the broiler pan is brilliant--I never would have thought of it, and it works better than other things I've used for making steam in the past).  I baked the loaf for about 25 minutes, when the internal temperature was about 200 degrees F.  I could tell the loaf had worked the way it was supposed to because I could hear it crackling once I took it out of the oven.  It was hard, but I let it cool for about 45 minutes before slicing it. 

The verdict?  Very tasty. =)  Maybe a bit on the salty side, but that's easy to adjust.  I buy my kosher salt in bulk, so I don't know how it measures compared to what the authors used (different brands of kosher salt compact differently in the measuring spoon).  

A couple days later (Saturday; about 36 hours after the first loaf) I decided to bake a second loaf for breakfast.  I was trying to make a batard (my shaping needs work), but the dough seemed to spread out quite a bit on the peel while it was resting, so I thought I'd end up with something more like ciabatta, so I didn't slash it before putting it into the oven.  I was wrong--I didn't realize just how much oven spring this wet dough has!  Good to know for next time.  As for the flavor, it definitely had more character than the first loaf.  

For the third loaf on Sunday I was much more successful with the batard shaping.  And the flavor was even better.  I didn't have quite enough dough left in the bucket for a fourth loaf, and I was thinking about mixing it into a new batch of dough for more flavor.  But then I realized that I needed rolls for hamburgers that evening, so my 10 ounces of remaining dough turned into four rolls of varying sizes (for 2 adults and 2 kids).  

One really cool thing I discovered is that there's a website/blog run by the cookbook authors, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.  You can find it here.  I found lots of great information, including what weights of flours they use (the book only has volume measures) and how to adjust the ratio of water to flour depending on what flour you use.  Zoë also has her own blog, found here.   

Next up: European Peasant Dough (already in progress)

Dough for Master Recipe Boule

26 ounces warm spring water (my house has very hard water, so I use bottled; I increased the water because KA flour has higher protein than most AP flours)
4 teaspoons instant yeast (what I'll use next time to slow the rise just a bit)
4 teaspoons kosher salt (since the original amount was a bit too salty)
2 pounds (32 ounces) King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour

Place the water in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the yeast, salt and flour.  Mix the dough with the dough hook until it is just mixed together with no dry patches.  Transfer the dough to a 5 or 6-quart container and let it rise at room temperature for about 2 hours.  Store the dough in the refrigerator for up to 14 days (though it hasn't lasted more than 5 so far!).  


  1. Beautiful, Di. And way to go on using up all the dough. :o)

  2. I am so impressed, Di. I have a deep fear of breadmaking that I've vowed to conquer in 2009. I will enjoy learning from your bread baking experiences. I love the idea of spending part of one day making the dough and then enjoying freshly baked bread for the next two weeks!

  3. I'm Jeff Hertzberg, one of the co-authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I'm so glad our recipes are working well for you. Come visit us anytime at, where you can post questions into any "Comments" field, or click on "Bread Questions" on the left side of the homepage and choose among the options.

    Jeff Hertzberg

    Chicago tribune video:

  4. How totally awesome - I am going to try this tomorrow. Does the flavor of the bread change the longer it sits?

    I love the idea of having dough just hanging out, waiting to be baked up fresh. Thanks!

  5. The bread looks great! I just got that book myself - but haven't made anything yet. Maybe you'll give me the push to do it now! :)

  6. Di, you're definitely ahead of me in the yeast department! This bread looks fantastic. I've been dipping my toe into the yeast-baking pool, which I will blog shortly. I did get one bread book for Christmas (Dan Lepard's) and have had my eye on a few more on my list, including this one. I can't wait to read about your further bread-baking adventures!

  7. Glad the 5-minute-bread works for you. I wasn't vry successful with German flour. There's nothing better than homemade bread, isn't it?

    Ulrike from Küchenlatein

  8. Thank you for using King Arthur Flour. Your bread looks wonderful!

  9. Your bread looks fabulous! Wow.

  10. Don't you love making bread. I have gone back to it and it is so relaxing. Your loaf is lovely.

  11. Great books! Your family did well.
    So happy to have a friend to discover Art in 5 bread with as well as other artisan techniques.
    I will add you to my blogroll so I can keep up with what you are baking.