27 March 2009

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

I had read about it for months, I saw the show on TV and one day on the way back home from work, I decided to stop by the Container Store for some baking equipment. That's right, the Container Store! I got me a big plastic box with a lid, took it home, poured some yeast, water and flour in there, stirred it around for a minute and just a day later, I had beautiful, fresh bread. The cost, in dollars? About $0.50. The cost, in time? About 5 minutes. The prize? Let me tell you, not much smells as good as freshly baked bread, and when it took basically no effort and no time, it's almost too good to be true.

The "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" book by Jeff Hertzberg (an MD...uh) and Zoe Francois is supposedly great. I didn't buy it yet, I might, but for now I'm happy with the basic recipe, which is simpler than simple. Trust me.

You'll definitely need a big bucket, plastic box or...well, something like that. A pizza peel helps. A pizza stone is pretty much essential. Once you have these things, let's get to work.

(Basic) Artisan Bread

1 1/2 tbsp dry yeast
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
6 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 cups lukewarm tap water
cornmeal for dusting

In a large, resealable container, mix the yeast with the lukewarm water (around 100 degrees F is fine). Once mixed together, add the salt and mix again. Next, add the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon, until just combined. Do not knead. Do not over-stir. Do not add anything else. This will be an extremely wet dough, and it's supposed to be! Close the lid and leave to fend for itself (raise) for about 5 hours in normal room temperature.

Now place it in the fridge, and leave at least overnight. The longer you leave it, the more complex the dough will get and the better the bread will taste. Two weeks is max, though, don't leave it longer than that.

Once you're ready to bake, liberally dust a pizza peel with cornmeal. Remove the container from the fridge, and sprinkle the area of dough you intend to use with all purpose flour - you're looking to remove about a grapefruit-sized ball of dough from the container. Dust your hand with flour, grab the dough and pull. Use a serrated knife to cut the dough loose. Next, shape a ball in your hand - you're looking to gently stretch the dough. Do not knead it! Stretch, turn a 1/4, stretch again. Repeat until you have a smooth ball. If it's very wet, use more flour to dust, but the flour is not supposed to be incorporated into the actual dough, just cover the surface.

Let the dough rest on the pizza peel for about 1h30m. They say 45 minutes in the book, I believe, but I find waiting twice that length of time is better. When 40 minutes remain, place the pizza stone in the middle of the oven, something that can contain water and won't break in the bottom of the oven (a cast iron pan or a broiler pan works fine), then turn your oven to 450 degrees. Once the 1h30 is up, slash the top of the bread three times with a serrated knife, to prevent exploding bread in your oven. Transfer to the pizza stone. Pour about a cup of warm tap water into a glass and quickly add to the pan at the bottom of the oven, then close the door and leave it closed - the steam will help develop a much better crust.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting into it and probably eating the whole thing in one sitting!

You don't have to wash the container when you run out of dough - just start anew and the small pieces of old dough will help develop a more complex taste for the next batch. Not quite like a sourdough starter, but not far off.


  1. Cool. Actually while not exactly the same recipe, I have done something similar today because we wanted sokme bread but I'm a bit sick and I couldn't be bothered to knead. I have heard of this method in the past but neverbothered with it so let's see how it turns out! :D

  2. But what about the salt?

  3. Ooops! It goes in once the water and yeast is mixed - forgot to add it:)


  4. Maybe I did something wrong, but at 450F for 20-22 minutes, the crust is great but the middle is not entirely finished. I got the same result twice. Next time I'll try lowering the temperature and increasing the duration.

  5. Hmm. Well, all ovens are different I suppose. Try 400 for 25 or even 30 minutes, the crust will be fine I'm sure. Or maybe make a smaller piece of bread with the same temperature and the same temperature. I got an oven thermometer and found out mine is 50 degrees cooler than the dial says when at 400 and 450, so... :)

  6. I added a tablespoon of creme freche in the end to mine (the one with culture in it, not just cream) and did some sort of weird nans with it, cooked them first in a greased pan, and then suspecting they wouldnt cook through totally, I finished them in my dying microwave/convection combi oven.

    It was a bit tricky to stretch and make a roundish wannabe shape, you need a nice bunch of flour, but i was pleased with the result. We figured out we like this better for wraps even if they are thicker (but I might be easy to please)

    I have already a next batch on the go so I can make a Sunday brunch without waiting an hour for the dough to proof.

    Thanks again!