Friday, April 08, 2011

Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day

Don't you love the smell of baking bread? Don't you hate the rising price of manufactured food?  Whole grain and multi grain bread has topped $6 a loaf here.  Time to save money and make my own bread again.

I go through periods of baking bread regularly, or making chiapatis (unleaven flat breads).  But the inconvenience of having to set aside a number of hours to knead bread and set aside the two rising periods and then the baking time discourages me from a regular meditation of bread making.  So we are making chaipatis more often than bread.  That's all changed.  I discovered "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day" through a friend (thanks, Jaime). 

Its an amazing bread making strategy that frees up your time.  You start by making the dough -- depending how much you make, it takes anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes.  The dough is made up of warm water, yeast, salt and wheat flour.  That's it.  The dough is put through the first rising period and then transferred to a container with a lid and refrigerated.  It will keep up to two weeks in the fridge and develops a nice sourdough flavour after 4 to 6 days.  That's a good sign as the souring of the dough removes the anti nutrients in wheat and makes it easier to digest.

Each time you want some bread you break off a piece of the dough, shape, dust with flour and let rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours. (the longer time is for whole wheat flour).    This takes less than 2 minutes.  Then you bake it or do whatever you need to for the pastry of your choice.  The baking method is unique as the bread is baked at in a very hot oven with some steam from a shallow pan of water for a crusty french bread texture.  Totally easy and yummy.

Here's a link to the article in Mother Earth News.

So I tried this for the first time on Tuesday and we had fresh baked round loaves a few times over two days.  The loaves were eaten quickly.  Then yesterday, just before running out to do our parttime job, I mixed up another batch.  I didn't have time to let it rise on the counter so I just covered it and put it right in the fridge.

About 6 hours later we arrived home to a power outage.  No problem.  The bread had risen in the fridge while we were gone and I pulled off a grapefruit size piece, punched the rest down and returned it to the fridge.  I rolled out a pizza crust, topped with goat cheese, carmalized onions, red peppers from the freezer and baked it in the wood fired oven at 450F.  Even though the oven temperature dropped during the baking time, it was sensational and all off grid.  We ate by candlelight and power returned just before nightfall.  It was a perfect dinner and we ate the leftovers for breakfast today.

You can make the bread in any size recipe and my version was as much as my Kitchenaid Mixer bowl could hold.  I stored it in the fridge in a 6 l. stainless steel milk pail with lid (Lee Valley) as we are trying to avoid plastics on our food.

For that amount of dough you need:
6 cups warm water
3 tbsp. yeast
2 tbsp. celtic sea salt
13 cups of flour

Dissolve the yeast in the water, Mix salt and flour in your mixing bowl.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture.  Using a dough hook, mix roughly.  It should use up all the flour and make a moist dough.  Cover and let rise until the rising dough caves in.  Punch down, put into your storage container and put it in the fridge.  Now its ready to use whenever you need bread.

See the article for the rest of the method.  The baking period has some unique features that makes this bread perfect.  I've put the book on my wish list on Amazon.  As well as their second book:

A money saving hint:  Food goes on sale at the time when the new harvest is coming in.  So flour goes on sale in August or September, when the new season's wheat is arriving at the mills.  I stocked up last September on Roger's Flour (my favorite high gluten flour for bread making) at $5 per 10 kg. (22lb.) bag -- the price now is $15 per bag.  This rule also applies to canned goods -- tomotoes, corn, peas etc.  So stock up while its on sale and store it under your bed or in your closet.  Prices always go up between January and June before the new produce comes off the fields.

I can see that baking bread this way will give me more time for felting, spinning and weaving.  I like that.

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