I've been doing a lot of experimenting lately with bread baking from the book Kayte recommended to me titled Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François. Their method of bread making-and-baking is a very interesting one, relying on a very wet dough that is stirred up, left to rise for a couple of hours on the counter, and then refrigerated for up to two weeks. During that period of refrigeration, you pull off a chunk of dough (their recipes are enough to make four loaves), dust it with flour, shape it, allow it to do its final proofing, and then bake it. Fresh bread, no kneading!
I've met with success and failure with this method, the failure occurring in the proofing: All the bread tastes fantastic, but the problem (and I am not enough of an expert to either predict when this will happen or know what to do to keep it from happening) is that sometimes the bread rises and sometimes it doesn't. Jeff and Zoë say in the book that I should be getting a lot of "bloom" in the oven, when the dough does some kind of magical poofing maneuver, but quite often, my loaves are completely free of poofage. It's very delicious bread, but not tall enough to make a sandwich with.
The five-minute brioche recipe was fabulous and it had a lot of oven bloom. I baked us several loaves of that and gave one to our neighbors, Pat and Mike the identical twins, and they came over and told me I was a genius. Coming from the two of them, both of them experienced bakers -- you'd want to see their glazed cinnamon rolls -- was high praise indeed. However, I've not quite had the nerve to take over Jeff and Zoë's basic recipe or their European Peasant Bread, both of which I've tried and failed to produce anything over three inches tall.
I have their Light Whole Wheat bread dough in the fridge right now, and before I make the first loaf from that batch, I thought I'd post a few helpful videos.
Here are Jeff and Zoë themselves on a chatty morning program from Minnesota. They give the recipe and instructions for the bread in the video.
And here's a vid demonstrating their technique from a website I just found called Instructables.com:
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - More DIY How To Projects
This final video is from a bit of a rival, adapted from baker Jim Lahey's recipe from the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. The recipe follows the video; I copied it out because it is rather different from the Hertzberg-François method.
Sullivan Street Bakery No-Knead Bread Recipe
from the New York Times
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1½ cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
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