Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

I love fresh homemade bread. I mean, who doesn’t? I think its the best thing ever! It’s even better than dessert. I especially love fresh bread with the yummy crisp crust and great chew. It’s something I wouldn’t mind eating every day, but let’s be honest – who has the time to make bread every day? That’s what spoke to me about the title of the book from which today’s recipe comes – Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. In reality, it’s not quite 5 minutes a day because you do have to allow for rising and baking times, but I loved how simple the approach to bread making was in this book. The idea is to mix up a large batch of high moisture dough that you can keep in the refrigerator and then pull out what you need each day. Also, each recipe can be modified slightly to make a variety of breads. For example, the recipe I’m going to share with you from the book can be used to make boules, ciabatta, baguettes, lavash, pizza dough, and more. Because it’s so versatile, it’s awesome that you can keep it in the fridge and have a different kind of fresh bread each day. This dough keeps in the refrigerator for up to 14 days so you have plenty of time to use it. I am going to share the master recipe from the book and give instructions for boules and baguettes. The recipe is several pages long in the book so I chose to paraphrase the recipe as this blog is not long enough to write everything found in the recipe in the book. This recipe makes 4 boules (or 4 baguettes) so you can have a soup night with the boules to serve it in!

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Boule (or Baguette) from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop and sweep method
Cornmeal for pizza peel

Mix the water, yeast and salt together in a 5-quart bowl or in whichever lidded (but not airtight) bowl that you plan to store your dough in the refrigerator in.

Mix in the flour all at once and mix until dough is uniform without dry patches. You do not need to knead the dough at all. Just mix it until it’s uniform.

Place the dough in the lidded bowl that you plan to store it in and cover with the lid. Let rise about 2 hours, until the top flattens out or begins to collapse.

Place the dough in the refrigerator at least 3 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to bake, pull out a grapefruit size portion of the dough (about 1/4 of the dough) and shape it with floured hands.This should only take 30-60 seconds. For a boule, shape it into a soft ball. For a baguette, shape it into a cylinder about 2 inches in diameter.

Place the soft ball or 2 inch cylinder of dough onto a cornmeal-covered pizza peel and allow the loaf to rest uncovered for about 40 minutes for boules, 20 minutes for baguettes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with a baking stone placed on the middle rack and a broiler pan (that will hold water a little later) on another rack that won’t interfere with the rising of the baking loaf. Make sure to preheat for at least 20 minutes before continuing with the next step.

Dust the top of the loaf with a little bit of flour and slice a couple of slits in the top of the loaf of bread with a sharp knife. Note: If doing a baguette, do not use flour to achieve a traditional look. Instead, brush the top of the loaf with water using a pastry brush. Boule: make a cross, tic-tac-toe pattern, or shell pattern. Baguette: 4 or 5 diagonal slices.

Using the pizza peel, slide the loaf onto the baking stone.

Quickly pour 1 cup of water into the broiler pan and close the oven door quickly to trap the steam.

Bake for about 30 minutes for boules, 25 minutes for baguettes, until the crust is browned and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool completely before slicing.

Refrigerate any remaining dough for up to 14 days.

I didn’t have a plastic bucket like the recipe called for to store my dough, but I did have a metal bowl with a lid and I used that. I’m sure that an empty 1 gallon ice cream bucket would work perfectly for storing the dough. I didn’t have a pizza peel or a baking stone, so I let my dough rise on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet and baked it on the same pan in the oven and they still turned out fine. The crust may not have been as crusty as it could have been had I used the baking stone, but the crust was still crisp. So don’t worry if you don’t have all the equipment called for. Also, I felt that there was too much salt in the recipe. My husband liked it being salty on the first day of being baked, but did think it was perhaps too salty the next day. As for me, next time I will cut the salt down to 1 tablespoon and it should be just right. I hope you enjoy the flexibility this way of making bread offers – especially to those who are tight on time but would love to enjoy fresh bread every day! I think bread making has been changed for me forever.

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