Monday, July 14, 2008

Let Them Eat Bread

Yes, Bastille Day, celebrating a revolution over bread.
I've had my own bread revolution, and I think it will bring an end to the ancien régime. I believe I may become a bread baker!
I've been reluctant to make my own bread, though I've tried it many times. Proof the yeast; knead the dough; let it rise; bake it; be disappointed.
Pah. Too much trouble for inferior results.
I wanted to try the famous "no-knead" bread, the one where you leave the dough out to rise for 20 hours. But I didn't really want to leave the dough out for 20 hours. Also, I was a little scared of the super-heated Dutch oven you're supposed to bake the bread in.
By chance, I came across a new book at the library, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. What a dubious claim! This is not the kind of book you'd buy on a whim. (But this is the glory of libraries.)
I read the book. I internalized it. I bought it!
I was still reluctant, but I forced myself to buy a sack of flour and a jar of yeast granules (much more economical than the foil packets, and by buying a whole jar, I was daring myself to USE it all).
Day one: Stir some warm water, salt and yeast together. Don't worry if it doesn't dissolve. Dump in the flour and mix for a minute, just enough to moisten all the dry spots, and leave it alone for two hours. Put this dough into a covered container in the fridge overnight.
Day two: Pull out some of the dough (you will have mixed up enough for two to eight loaves; a little math is required). Form it into a quick ball. Let it sit for 40 minutes. And then bake your bread. This is how I made the mini hot dog buns.
Day whatever (because you can keep this dough in the ice box for Two Weeks!): Make another loaf. Easy as pie... only it's bread.
I will confess mine is not perfect but I'm so-o-o encouraged to keep trying. The crust is shatteringly fantastic; I'm still working on the crumb. The flavor is "bread." Good bread. Artisan bread.
I'm going to be saving $6 on market-bought loaves.
Vive la revolution!
UPDATE: I've got my second batch of dough maturing in the refrigerator, and it looks a lot more successful (hope, hope). I think I didn't do my arithmetic right when I halved the ingredients the first time, and probably got too much flour in the mix.


kudzu said...

Zut alors! I am so impressed. If there were more than one of me in the household I might follow your lead. Congratulations!

Greg said...

The closest thing I've ever done to baking are the frozen Pillsbury biscuits. It seems complicated.You are brave.

Michelle said...

Vive la revolution! Yes! It may not be perfect, but it sure as hell looks it from here! It's gorgeous!! I'm totally impressed and strangely I was just looking at that bread book at the bookstore the other day! Bravo Cookie, bravo!! Now, I must go buy that book...

dancingmorganmouse said...

Well done you, but I think I'll stick with the $6 fancy market loaves (can't find really good flour).

cookiecrumb said...

Kudzu: No, don't be impressed! This is easy beyond description, LSD easy (I felt like I hallucinated the whole thing).
And I'll tell you something. You can pinch off a small dab of dough and bake half a loaf. Which is better than none, girlie. ;)

Greg: I used to love cracking open those biscuit tubes and inhaling the chemical odors. Like ditto paper. Remember?
It's NOT complicated. At all. I am not brave.

Michelle: This is for you! I hope you will give it a try. After all you are a scientist.
Everybody else, go read Michelle's wrenching story about rescuing a bird. All is well, we believe.

Morgan: I used ordinary grocery store flour. Gold Medal, I think. Very fresh, which is all you need. But thanks for the props. Come and have a sandwich.

Cynthia said...

I am so happy to see another convert! I too have fallen under the glorious spell of "Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes A Day". I have made more than half of the recipes in the book and haven't purchased a single loaf of bread in several months. Every single recipe has been remarkable and sooooo easy. (The sticky buns are to die for!) Hooray for real crusty bread with no funny preservatives!
Love your blog BTW : )

Patricia Scarpin said...

That is magnificent! It looks amazing!
I'm very interested in buying that book. It's great hearing your opinion about it - tks for sharing!

el said...

One, this is great news for your household. Two, bread, it seems like no other foodstuff, seems to bring out the worst in foodwriters! With good ingredients and a bit of practice (or no practice with the no-knead method) most folks can make gorgeous loaves of bread that taste just great. Why has all this mystery grown up around it? Bread for the people, indeed! Yay.

jhertz10 said...

Thanks for internalizing our stuff! 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 into the "Bread Questions" gateway on the left side of the homepage.

Jeff Hertzberg

Chilebrown said...

I am impressed. I think the smell of bread baking is wonderful. I bet you will be hooked in no time. Are you still researching that wood burning oven? I know somebody that will dig a hole in your lawn.

Zoomie said...

Thanks for the tip - I'll look for the book!

cookiecrumb said...

Cynthia: Wow, you're cooking your way through the book. I've already marked a few other recipes I'm planning to try, and by Christmas I might be ready for the panettone. Thanks for the support.

Patricia: If you read Cynthia's comment, you'll see that the book is much more than this basic technique, but all the variations are based on the technique.

El: I know. Are bakers who've become accomplished trying to scare the rest of us off? Egalite!

Jeff: How cool of you to stop by. I appreciate you leaving your website address. (I bet I sold a few more books for you!)
~internally yours

ChileBrown: I guess I needed to take baby steps. In my Manolos! Cuz, yeah, it came out great.

Zoomie: You're already an accomplished baker, but this method is blink-and-you-miss-it easy.

Sweet Bird said...

I keep hearing all these wonderful things about this book. I think you may have finally convinced me to get it. I too fear the bread making. Alot. I'm a big baby.

Michelle said...

I will! I will! And thanks for the plug ;)

k & k said...

Bread has scared me...until now. I believe I might have the guts to try this! At first I had thought of those corny "friendship loaves" that get passed aroung in a ziploc baggie for weeks on end...but this this is the fast track with tact--and taste it sounds like!

Nerissa said...

Well, if it tastes as good as it looks... well done! Bread scares me a bit. Well, the yeast actually. I've heard horror stories from friends about yeast continuing to rise in the stomach. I'm terrified of doing that to someone or myself. I'm such a wuss LOL

Nikki Miller-Ka said...

I've decided not to buy anymore bread because of added sugars, salt, and other crap I don't need to put in my body. I really REALLY need to buy this book. Everyone is making bread from it. So, today after I make whatever I'm going to post about, I'm going to walk to Borders and get IT.

namastenancy said...

I am fighting the urge to buy this book and start baking. I make a kick ass flatbread and Indian chapatis because I like crispy, sour flavors and can't find them in the store. But the carbs, Oh My God! Carbs are my downfall. I like chocolate but give me bread and butter and I'm in 7th heaven. Unfortunately, my blood sugar does not like the carbs so I must remove myself from temptation. I must resist the crust! But your bread looks totally awesome!

cookiecrumb said...

Sweet Bird: If only you knew how many baking books I buy, to get me unafraid. And they just scare me more.
This one's a winner. Yay for you, I hope!

k & k: Since I don't write a recipe blog, I'm not going to print out the full procedure. If I did, though, I feel you'd be convinced. And with that endorsement, I think you should at least get the book from the library and check it out. Good luck.

Nerissa: Don't fear the yeast! How will you be able to drink beer or wine?

Nikki: There are a bunch of recipes, but the basic one (which I used) is nothing but salt, yeast, water and flour. Can't go wrong. (And you're *walking* to the bookstore. Good.)

NamasteNancy: I'm not gonna push hard drugs on you. If you eat bread even once in a while, though, this is an exciting experiment.

Sam said...

certainly looks stunning

cookiecrumb said...

Sam: I was impressed. It should have baked longer; not as brown as it could have been and the interior was a little soggy... But, oh, I was greatly inspired by your loaf I tasted at Jen's last year.

Patricia Scarpin said...

I read it now and that is great news. Thank you!