Oh boy. The smell of fresh baked bread is amazing whether you are at the local bakery or in your own home. Actually, fresh baked anything smells good but there is something special about that yeasty aroma created from the mixture of flour, water, yeast and salt.
I don’t know about you but here on San Juan Island, the cost of a freshly baked loaf of bread is over $5 and even the store-bought, mass produced stuff is almost $4 a loaf. Crazy, no? Well, we eat a lot of homemade Panini’s here in our house which means we go through a lot of bread but cripes, the cost can cripple my food budget.
A few years back I picked up the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and never looked back. (Well, I did have to look at the scale a few weeks later but that’s another story!) In case you have not heard of this book, the basic process is to put some flour, yeast, water, and kosher salt in a bucket, let it rise for a couple of hours, then stash it away in the fridge for up to two weeks. Whenever you want some bread, pull out a glob about the size of a grapefruit, shape it (no kneading), bake it, then eat it.
The first time I tried it my Mom was visiting and we ate the whole loaf shortly after it came out of the oven – it was that good.
Take a look at this video from the authors as they talk about the whole grain version of the bread from their book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
Still not convinced? Consider this. When the doo doo hits the fan, the power is out, and all you have to cook with is a camp stove or barbeque, you can make this bread! Really. It cooks up swell in a closed grill and there is even a version that can be made on the top of a grill. Talk about the ultimate comfort food.
More reasons? (No worries, the basic recipe is below.)
1. Baking your own bread saves money. I have not run a precise calculation, but as far as I can tell, the cost is only 40 to 60 cents per loaf, depending in whether or not you purchase your ingredients in bulk or on sale.
2. Homemade bread is healthier. There are no fats (or very little), no chemical additives, no hydrogenated oils, no unhealthy preservatives, and no sugary sweeteners.
3. Taste is king. Homemade bread tastes better than store bought. No contest. Even boo boos taste good.
4. The aroma is captivating, Your house will smell good; this is the ultimate in aromatherapy.
5. You friends, family and neighbors will be impressed. Okay, maybe this is not important to you but you yourself will be impressed and that does count.
Ready for the master recipe?
The Master Recipe: Artisan Free Form Loaf.
From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007). Copyright 2007 by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.
Makes four 1 pound loaves.
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (about 1-1/2 packets)
- 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 6-1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached flour, measured with the scoop & sweep method
- Cornmeal for pizza peel or parchment paper
1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes or up to 90 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it. (Or skip the peel and use parchment paper on a baking sheet.)
3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.
4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.
Here are some of the breads I have made.
It’s so simple, you just stir up a big batch of dough (remember, you don’t have to knead it) put it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, then when you want some bread, you take out a blob what ever size you want your loaf to be, and bake it up fresh.
It’s so easy! You’ll amaze yourself at what you pulled out of your own oven-the bread looks like something you bought at a local bakery!
Enjoy your next adventure, wherever it takes you!
Backdoor Survival Tip: The expiration date on your yeast may say that it has expired, but if you have stored the yeast in the refrigerator, or better yet, in the freezer where it will remain active even longer, it may still be good beyond the expiration date. Here’s an easy way to test the yeast to see if it is still active.
Mix 1 tsp sugar into 1/2 cup of warm water (110° to 115° F), then mix in 2-1/4 tsp yeast. If mixture has risen to the top of the cup by the end of ten minutes, yeast is very active. If not, it needs to be replaced.
Bargain Bin: Are your ready to do some baking from scratch. It really is easy, you know. Here are some items to get you started.
Lodge Cast Iron Loaf Pan: This is next on my “cast iron that I covet list”. As you know, cast iron heats up evenly and retains heat for super cooking results. Mmmm . . . think of the quick breads, meat loaves and more from a cast iron loaf pan!
Ove’ Glove Hot Surface Handler: These oven gloves withstand extreme heat up to 540 degrees F. If you could see the scars that I have from my pre-Ove Glove days, you would know why I endorse them. They can be used by both left and right handers and are washable in the washing machine. A Survival Woman must have if you do any cooking at all.
Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day: This is the latest edition in the Artisan In Five series and possibly the best. And yes, I need to write about and review this book. But that takes longer than five minutes LOL.
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking: At an average cost of 50 cents a loaf, this bread is easy, delicious and inexpensive to make.
Danish Dough Whisk: Besides the book, this is the one must-have. This gizmo makes mixing up the dough a lot – and I mean a lot – easier.
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