Daily Archives: September 26, 2009

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes, part Deux

Yesterday I posted about my preliminary adventures with Jeff Herzberg and Zoe Francois’s somewhat amazing Artisan Bread in Five Minutes book. (Or more precisely, my adventures with the basic recipe while I waited for  the book to come into the library.)

bread photoLast night I got the book and pored over it. Today I did a little more experimentation, though still more or less not using any specific recipes–just the Basic Master Plan and my own sense of “what if.”

Today we’re eating a lot of bread–three different loaves:

1. Rosemary Foccacia–for this I just took the basic refrigerated dough (which was, by the way, 2/3 unbleached flour and 1/3 white whole wheat flour), formed it into a ball and flattened it into a circle, and let it rest.  Before putting it into the oven I dented it with my fingers and poked it with a fork a bit, and then sprinkled coarse sea salt and rosemary all over the top.  VERDICT: Amazing. This is a keeper.  I will use this to impress dinner guests, or take some to parties, or what-have-you.

2. Cinnamon Bread–this was sort of an experiment for the kids. To do this I used the basic refrigerated dough again and formed the requisite ball, then flattened it into a sort of oval shape.  I sprinkled cinnamon and sugar (could have done raisins too, just didn’t) all over it, rolled it up, and curled under the ends again to make another ball, which I then let rest for the 40 minutes the original calls for.  (This is how the book suggests making anything from date-walnut bread to olive bread to all kinds of Bread With Stuff In It.) Before baking I sprinkled more cinnamon and sugar on top.  VERDICT: the kids each had a slice as their after-school snack; they love it. I think for sweet breads in general I will need to cut back on the salt quite a bit, because it’s still a little salty even though I used the coarse salt the book calls for this time instead of the finer salt I used on my first batch.  But in general, this was lovely.  If any of it survives till morning, I bet it would make an amazing french toast. This might also be nice with jam or something spread on the bread before rolling it up…

3. Baguette: This is more of a no-brainer, I guess, and I’m not following the exact book recipe at all–just once again using the same basic dough but shaping it into a long log instead of a round boule.  (Which is, now that I look it up, exactly what the book says to do.) VERDICT: Perfect.  I will never buy grocery store bakery bread again.  This stuff is amazingly good. (I should qualify: perfect tasting.  I still haven’t got the hang of exactly how to do the slashes in a way that lets it do all the springing it needs to in the oven without splitting open on the sides, particularly for the long breads. Boule-shape seems to work for me, though…)

The point of the exercise for me was really to see how many different breads I can make from one single basic dough type in the fridge.  I mean, if you mix up 4 loaves worth of herb bread dough, you’re going to make 4 loaves of herb bread or foccacia. You’re not going to be making french toast, right?  And if you mix up a sweet bread dough, it’s not going to go so well with the Chicken Piccata.  So while some of the other breads look very appealing, my guess is that even if I do buy the book (and I’m fairly sure I will), I’ll come back to the basic-but-tweaked recipe again and again.

The Book itself–it’s a great book, and I’m still waffling on whether to go out and buy it after my library two weeks are up.  In general I’m not a cookbook kind of cook; I find a basic template and then mess with it to see what I can do with it.  Also, the book gets a lot schmantzier than I ever will in a good half of its recipes (and once you hit schmantzy, 5 minutes goes out the window), and has a lot more recipes for salads and sandwiches and Things To Do With This Bread than I would ever use.  On the other hand, there are enough other template type recipes–like Oatmeal bread, Pumpkin bread, Challah, Brioche (which I will probably never make because of the high fat content), and such which I expect I’d probably make often enough that having the book might be worthwhile.  Over the next two bread-laden weeks I’ll think about it and try some of those other “basic” recipes to see what happens. My copyright consciousness says that if there are only maybe 1 or 2 recipes in the book I think I will ever make, I will feel fairly comfortable making a photocopy of those couple of pages for my own use later.  Any more than that and I would feel like a thief and would instead just buy the whole book.  At the moment I have post-its in 9 pages, though, so I expect I’ll be shelling out the “dough” for this one fairly soon.  (And the sequel is coming out soon too!)

In terms of my own playfulness and experimentation, there will be a lot of messing around with flax seed, oat bran, oat flour, and whole wheat flour to see how much Good Stuff I can get in there.  Refined flour might be missing lots of the nutritional goodness of whole grains, but it does such lovely things in bread!  So the trick is always to keep enough white flour to get your nice crust and lightness and chewiness and avoid whole wheat’s bitter flavor.   But I expect having a batch of dough in the fridge could become a fairly regular thing around here.

My husband cautions me to not overdo, or we’ll get sick of it.  I can’t quite imagine that…

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