Turning over a new loaf

Dan and I have discovered a new technique in bread making that may revolutionize our baking lives.  First a little background:  I make our basic sandwich/toast bread and I believe it turns out well and works for sandwiches and everyday stuff.  I also have a good recipe for quick focaccia bread that we often use for dinner.  Both of these are satisfactory, but we also have been searching for the right way to re-create artisan bread loaves (like you buy at the market) at home. Dan spent months refining his technique with sour dough, but eventually decided  he wasn’t really accomplishing what he wanted.

Now we have found this new book (Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois) which may be what we are looking for.  Basically you make a large batch of basic, but really wet dough (a 2:1 ratio of flour to water) and let it rise for a couple of hours and then leave it in the fridge (apparently for up to two weeks — though our first batch only lasted a few days).  When you want to bake a loaf pull off a chunk of whatever size you want, quickly shape a loose loaf on a peel and let it sit for 40 minutes.  Lastly, bake on a stone with steam for 30 minutes.  We’ve had great success.  With other doughs this wet I got very frustrated with the handling and many rises. I once even had to stay up late into the night to bake my bread because I had missed a 3rd rise when reading over the recipe and didn’t leave enough time.  (that bread involved a couple of swear words if I remember correctly).  So far the only tricky part has been baking time since the loaf size varies, but we’ve both been impressed with the crumb and crust and think it may be our best approximation of artisan bread.

I would highly recommend the book.  They have recipes for brioche and other doughs as well, which I may try.  Seattle Public Library has it for those local readers.  And for any aspiring bakers it is a great resource to make artisan baking a little more realistic for the novice.

Written by alicia in: Book Review,Food | Tags: ,


  • Dan

    Check out this video of the authors on YouTube. It feels like cheating, but I’ve never made bread this good, so I’m going to go with it.

    Comment | December 4, 2008
  • dan

    Oh, and the basic recipe is:
    6-1/2 c. flour
    1-1/2 T. salt
    1-1/2 T. yeast
    3-1/4 c. water

    Mix it in a bowl, let it rise, store it in the fridge. Flour the top, cut off a grapefruit sized chunk w/ a serrated knife, and form a loaf when you’re ready to go. Let rise 45 min, cook at 475° for 30 min on a pizza stone. Pour 2 c. water into a broiling pan on the bottom rack to produce steam when you put the loaf in. I use parchment paper on my peel to keep the loaf from sticking.

    I’ve had good luck subbing up to 2 c. whole wheat in for the white flour. The latest batch has rosemary in it but I haven’t tried it yet.

    Comment | January 19, 2009
  • Liz

    Dan- What is a peel and is the stone a must?

    Comment | February 12, 2009
  • dan

    A peel is like a big wooden spatula (it’s often used for pizza too). The pizza stone really helps with cooking the loaf evenly, as it holds a lot of heat. You can track down some ceramic tiles for pretty cheap and use those too (that’s what my parents used while I was growing up.)

    Comment | February 12, 2009

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