A carbohydrate overload craze overtook my book club last year. My dear friend LeAnn started showing up at every gathering with homemade, delicious bread. We couldn’t stop ourselves from eating seconds, even thirds. The bread was crunchy on the outside and moist and holey on the inside. I’m famous in my circles for my no knead bread, so at first I thought that LeAnn was just using that recipe. One day when I was at her house, I saw a copy of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. Her secret was out of the bag. And as I perused the book, I saw that while the original recipe was similar to my no-knead bread, the book included over 50 other recipes based on one fantastic concept:
Mix up a large batch of dough and store it in the fridge for a week or two. During that time, whenever you want some bread, just cut off a chunk of dough with a bread knife, let it come to room temperature on your counter, and bake.
Voila! Fresh, hot, crusty bread with minimal work, time, or dishes. Now that’s a great idea.
Once you make this bread and realize just how easy it is, you’ll want to start buying your flour in 25 pound bags so that you always have enough on hand to whip up your favorite loaf!
five minute bread
from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
(makes four 1-pound loaves)
3 cups lukewarm water (110 degrees)
1 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast (2 packets) (instant yeast preferred)
1 1/2 tbsp kosher or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups (27.6 oz) unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop and sweep method (see below)
cornmeal for pizza peel or rimless baking tray
I prefer to mix the bread in my KitchenAid stand mixer and then put the finished dough in a lidded dough container.
Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5 quart bowl, or preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic container or food grade bucket. Don’t worry about getting all the yeast to dissolve.
When measuring out your flour, scoop out a cup and use a knife to scrape the excess off the top. Because you’re using so many cups of flour, a little error on each cup adds up to big difference in the end, so do take care in this. If you have a kitchen scale, you can just measure out 27.6 ounces of flour.
Mix in the flour all at once with a wooden spoon, a high capacity food processor with dough hook, or a heavy duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the mixture is uniform. Do not knead the bread. You’re finished when everything is uniformly moist without dry patches.
Cover with a lid (not airtight and allow to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse or at least flattens on top, approximately 2 hours, depending on the room’s temperature and the initial temperature of the water. You can let it rise up to 5 hours without ruining the dough.
You can use the dough at this point, although it’s far easier to work with the dough after it has been refrigerated for a couple of hours. The first time you try making this bread, let it sit in the fridge for at least 3 hours so it can firm up a bit.
On baking day:
Sprinkle a pizza peel or unrimmed baking sheet with cornmeal. Cover the dough with a thin layer of flour and pull and cut off a grapefruit-sized piece of dough using a serrated knife. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so that it won’t stick to your hands. Shape the dough into a ball as quickly as possible and rest on the cornmeal covered peel. This process should not take more than 30 seconds.
Let the loaf rest on the peel for about 40 minutes.
Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread.
Dust the bread with flour and cut several 1/4-inch-deep slashes on the top with a serrated knife.
After a 20 minute preheat, you’re ready to bake, even though your oven won’t be up to temperature. Run the tap water so that it gets hot. Slide the loaf onto the preheated baking stone. Quickly add 1 cup of hot tap water to the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. The inside will stay moist even though the outside is browning. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack. The crust may soften, but it will firm up again when cooled.
Store the remaining dough in the fridge in your lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 14 days, repeating the “On baking day” steps from above.