Friday, April 17, 2009




A SLICE OF MY CULINARY LIFE

I recently discovered something that has changed my culinary life.

I've always wanted to make bread. When I was a girl, some of my best days were when my mom would bake. White bread with thick crusts, wheat bread with honey, swirls of each baked in a coffee can. She tried many different recipes  -- with seven kids, anything that saved money was appreciated! I have wonderful cherished memories of running into our old Indiana farmhouse from the schoolbus to the incredible smell of baking bread and acres of those lovely loaves cooling on the table. We would slice a huge slab, slather it with creamy butter and then drizzle tons of plain white sugar all over it (don't ask me why. We were kids and figured everything tasted better with sugar on it!). My mouth is watering, just thinking about it!

But my life is a little different than my mom's was. I have a books I need to write, deadlines to meet, characters I need to explore. I have always just figured I don't have time in my life for all that mixing and kneading and rising and punching down.

We had a breadmaker when they were all the rage and I used it once in awhile but it never quite tasted like that bread I remember as a girl. I just figured I had to resign myself to the occasional homemade loaf my wonderful neighbors bring over sometimes or the sourdough ciabatta my husband likes to buy every Saturday afternoon from a local bakery.

Until this earthshaking book I bought for my Kindle after being teased with it for weeks on the Amazon bestseller lists. Some of you might be familiar with it -- "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I was intrigued by the concept but figured it was just another gimmick. And then on another board I follow, somebody was talking about it and posted a link to this article  in Mother Earth News about it. I had to try -- and now I'm completely hooked!

I love this. It's an amazing concept -- that many of the traditional steps in bread baking can be eliminated. For their method, you mix all their ingredients by hand, let the somewhat wet dough rise for a couple hours and then put it in your refrigerator. When you want to make bread, you just take out a section (a batch makes four loaves), shape it, let it rest on a pizza peel and then bake on a pizza stone. I've made bread nearly every day for two weeks and my family is going crazy for it. The book has all kinds of recipes that all look delicious but so far I've only been brave enough to make the master recipe boule (see above. Does it look fabulous?!). Every batch tastes delicious -- fantastic crisp crust, moist inside, a bit of a sourdough tang after the dough has been in the fridge for a few days. Mixing it is easy-peasy. I don't have a stand mixer or a Bosch, I just use a wooden spoon and it's a breeze. Making a boule really does only take a couple of minutes, not counting letting the dough rest and heating your pizza stone and, of course, baking time.

What about you? Any of you bakers? Have you tried this method -- or something similar?