Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Great Bread Experiment

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. I was immediately intrigued. I've been baking my own sandwich bread for years, first with the help of a mixer and later with a bread machine. Artisan bread is something I've not had as much success with. Many of the recipes I tried required a significant time commitment. I had some success, but much inconsistency. I know something about myself - to get consistent with a recipe it has to be easy enough so that I can make it often. Enter Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

The premise of this method of bread baking is that bread dough can be kept in the refrigerator and baked as needed. The master recipe is simple. It mixes up quickly, and no kneading is required. The dough gets a two hours rise and can be used immediately or refrigerated for up to two weeks. During the two weeks, anytime you want bread cut off a piece and shape it into a round loaf. Let the loaf rest for 40 minutes or more, and bake at 450 until done. The book recommends using a baking stone to get the best crust, but I'm going to make do with a cookie sheet for now.

The flavor of the bread is said to develop as it sits in the refrigerator. Initially the bread will have a very mild flavor. It will develop into a sourdough taste over time. I'm curious how the bread develops, so I've decided to embark on The Great Bread Experiment. The first loaf of bread I baked tonight, with fresh dough. That is, after the two hour rise, I cut off a good handful of dough, shaped and baked it. The results are in this picture.

The first loaf is pretty tasty, and the inside texture turned out lovely. I wasn't thrilled with the floury top, which came from sprinkling the flour on top before slashing the loaf. I'll try the alternate slash method next time (wet the knife with water to keep it from sticking to the dough).

I will continue my experiment over two weeks. Every 2-3 days I will bake another small loaf of bread. I will compare tastes and textures and report back in two weeks. If you don't want to wait for two weeks to hear the results, follow me on Twitter. I'll update it every time I bake a loaf of bread :)


geeky! said...

Fresh bread is SO GOOD! Ive been wanting to bake my own bread but havent committed any time to it. We recently got a KitchenAid stand mixer, too!

I've bookmarked this site;
for when I start. I dont quite like the layout but it looks like it has a lot of really good content.

Anastasia said...

Geeky - did a recipe book come with your stand mixer? The first bread recipe I ever made was the French bread from a recipe that came with my mom's KitchenAid. The recipe is super easy, the mixer does all the work. And I found it to be pretty reliable. Just be careful not to use to much flour - the dough should be a little sticky.

geeky! said...

Honestly, I dont know. I'll have to check. See, my gf's mother lives near a KitchenAid outlet. She was looking for an excuse to upgrade hers to a larger, more powerful model. She found out that we've been wanting one one so we got her old one and she happily upgraded.
A quick look at the KA site only yields the Use & Care Guide. I bet if I hit up customer service, I can have them mail me one if we don't have it somewhere. Thanks for the tip! :)