Sunday, January 8, 2012
About a year ago my friend told me about a cookbook called "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day." It is full of bread recipes of amazing, delicious, perfect artisan bread. The one I make at least several times a month is the basic boule. It's a round loaf, smallish (about 6-8 inches in diameter), with a crusty outside and a light tender interior. I love it. It goes well with soups, salads, and sandwiches. It makes fantastic french toast, and is wonderful in panzanella (a.k.a. Bread Salad). It is heaven if you eat it when it is still warm with some homemade blackberry freezer jam. It really is an amazing recipe, and is about as simple as bread can be.
The recipe makes enough dough for about four loaves, depending on how big you make them. The "5 minutes a day" part comes in when you want to bake them. It takes nearly no effort on your part.
Here's what you do:
3 cups warm water
1 1/2 T yeast
1 1/2 T salt
6 - 6 1/2 cups flour (I frequently have one of those cups be wheat flour)
In a mixer or large bowl combine the water, yeast, and salt. Add flour and mix just until dough comes together and is equally moistened. Place in a large container and cover (not airtight). Let sit for 3 hours. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 10 days (dough will develop a sourdough flavor the longer it stays in your fridge).
When ready to make a loaf, remove dough from fridge. Sprinkle some cornmeal in a 6-inch circle on a pizza peel or a wooden cutting board. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, then cut a grape-fruit sized amount of dough out. Return unused dough to the fridge. Use your hands to turn the dough, pulling the dough to the outside edges, forming a ball. Place the dough ball in the middle of the cornmeal circle. Let sit for 45 minutes.
When the dough has 15 minutes left to rise, take a broiler pan or other shallow baking dish and fill it partially with water. Place this pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Place another rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450-degrees F.
When dough has rested for 45 minutes, move to a greased baking sheet or baking stone by giving the cutting board a good shake. The dough should slide right off onto your baking surface. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the loaf (optional), then using a sharp serrated knife, slice a cross design or three vertical slits into the top of the loaf. Place in hot steamy oven. Bake for 30 minutes at 450F. Remove from oven and let cool.