For years, I’d had a love-hate relationship with baking bread. It’s a domestic skill I could never master, and that bothered me.
When I tried, four out of five loaves flopped. Then, in an act of mercy from the yeast gods, I’d turn out a specimen fit for judging at the Iowa State Fair. Eventually, the outrageous price of store-bought bread led me to a method and book with the same title: “The NEW Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.”
Sure. Like anyone in her right mind would believe that. Five minutes a day? If this book were touting some prepackaged mix or pricey piece of equipment, I wouldn’t be interested.
But in no time at all, the verdict was in. It’s true. Authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois have taken the home-baking world by storm, having created a method that takes out all of the variables of baking yeast breads: the time, the hassle, the waiting and the worrying. And the book includes gluten-free recipes!
I stand before you a changed woman, and a consistent home baker of artisan bread. It’s the rustic, beautiful kind of bread you see in a European bakery. It’s the kind of bread that is made once a day, consumed by the family and then replaced the following day. Every day.
I am as busy as I ever was, and even I have five minutes a day to bake bread. While I had to put my daily baking efforts on the shelf, so to speak, during the many long months of our out-of-state transition and move, gluten-free recipes: I’m back! I’m quite possibly the most enthusiastic member of the BYOB movement (bake your own bread). I’m toying with the idea of making 2016 the year that we don’t buy bread at all — and still have bread every day of the year.
Here’s my routine:
On Saturday, I take about 10 minutes to make up the master recipe. The ingredients are simple: water, flour, yeast and salt. That’s it. I measure the ingredients and mix to combine them. Then, I dump the dough into my “dough-rising box” (a 40-cup plastic container with a lid), leave it on the counter for two hours and then move it to the refrigerator. It makes enough dough for eight one-pound loaves. The dough will last for two weeks in the fridge.
When I want to bake a loaf, I open the box, grab a wad of dough, dust it with a little flour, shape it and set it on a wooden pizza peel. There it sits for 40 minutes to an hour as the oven preheats and I do other things. I pop it into the oven on a baking stone and 30 minutes later, we have fresh, European bakery-style bread. Did I say no kneading?
Since I became a BYOB-er, I’ve used the master dough to make breadsticks, soft pretzels, pizza and dinner rolls.
Here’s the best part: A decent loaf of bread at my store is now closing in on $4 per loaf. A loaf of my homemade artisan bread costs forty cents, one-tenth the cost and 10 times better.
There’s something more that comes with baking bread. It’s soul-soothing. I love knowing that I have yeast in the freezer and flour in the pantry. It makes me feel self-reliant. I like that.
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