Adventures in Artisan Bread Baking (part 2)

I mentioned a while ago that I had received Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish as a Christmas gift and that it had started me on a quest to make great artisan bread at home.  You can read my adventures with the first few recipes I tried in that book here.

Not long after I tried my hand at baking the breads in that cookbook, I found out that Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day was on sale in the eBook version.  So, I hopped on over to Amazon and got the Kindle version. I couldn’t wait to try out another style of baking artisan breads and the “five minutes a day” hook was certainly intriguing to me.  Especially after taking two days to make a loaf of bread using Forkish’s methods.  Don’t get me wrong, those breads were totally awesome, just time consuming. But as he says, good bread takes time. So, how would a five minute bread compare?

I was ready to find out.

The secret, as they call it in the book, is to make enough dough to last several days (or for several loaves) and keep it in the refrigerator.  You mix once, and bake many.

I can do that, I thought.  Let’s give it a shot.

As with Forkish’s method, their dough is a wet dough. Much wetter than the other bread doughs I’ve been accustomed to making. But since I’d just made the other breads, it didn’t seem strange to do it this way.  I found a 2 1/2 gallon bucket that I’d had stashed and mixed up my dough in that.  Just as with the Flour Water Salt Yeast bread those were the only four ingredients.   What was different was that there was no long proofing time and no long rise time.  Strange, I thought.

I made my first batch one afternoon and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight although the book said you could mix the dough in the morning and bake your bread that evening if you chose.  I didn’t mix my dough until late in the day so I let it rest overnight.

The next afternoon, I baked the bread.  Another difference was the baking method.  With Forkish’s method, you bake in a covered Dutch oven to get the steam going and crust development.  With the 5 Minute method, you bake on a baking/pizza stone and use a separate container of water in the oven to accomplish the steaming and crust development.  I was curious to see what differences there would be, if any.

So, I baked, and peeked through the oven door watching it baking and wondering how the final bread would turn out.

I tried the Light Whole Wheat Bread recipe.  The recipe states it will make four 1-pound loaves. In my first batch, I only got two loaves out of the mix.  However, I think my loaves were closer to 2 pounds each. I decided that rather than doing a free-form loaf baked on the pizza stone, I wanted to try using my Pampered Chef stoneware loaf pan. I figured the stoneware would work the same and I’d get a pretty loaf-shaped loaf of bread.

I was not disappointed.  It turned out well. So well, in fact, that we gobbled it up almost immediately. Fresh, warm bread out of the oven, slathered with a little butter. What could be better?

As I continued to read the book, I saw that they say the later loaves from the dough (that have sat for a few days) bake up with a sourdough taste to them – from the ongoing fermentation of the bread that happens as it sits in your refrigerator.  The second day’s batch was even tastier than the first and it did indeed have more of a sourdough flavor to it.  Not the same complexity of flavors as the breads I made from Flour Water Salt Yeast, but still good.  Perfectly good for sandwiches and everyday eating. Especially since I mixed the dough once and got two separate batches of bread out of it.  I loved the quick prep times and the easy payoff of bread dough waiting in the fridge to be popped in the oven.

My only complaint? That the bread didn’t rise very much. It didn’t have the big bubbles and high rise of the other artisan breads.  Now that could be (and most likely is) my fault.  I may not have had the water hot enough. (or too hot) I may not have measured my yeast accurately enough. It was rainy so the dough may have been too wet. There is no telling. Bread is a delicate balance of all of these things – so it’s always a guess as to what goes right or wrong when you bake.  The only secret is to keep baking, take notes, and replicate what works well.

And so that’s what I’ll do.

I’ll keep baking.

I’m planning to continue to try recipes from both cookbooks. I figure eventually I will come up with a recipe and method that works for my family and schedule.  And then bread nirvana will be obtained. Smile

Until then, I’ll have lots of fun tasting the samples.

Get your own copies of the books:

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