Sunday, May 11, 2008

Making bread

I baked a loaf of bread tonight. (Note: this is a giant spatula--the loaf is about twice as big as a grapefruit.)

When I was about nine years old, I baked bread for the first time. I used the Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery (volume BEA-CAS) basic white bread recipe for years until I figured out that I could just wing it. From then on, my bread had everything but the kitchen sink in it. You'd be as likely to be offered oatmeal maple syrup white bread as whole wheat molasses. A few years ago I was at Free Day at the library book sale and found the volume BEA-CAS on its own on a shelf. I snapped it right up, for nostalgia's sake. I still wonder where the other 11 volumes were.

Recently I read a review of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. Intriguing. Off I went to the library website to reserve my copy. It's a very pretty book with lots of variations on the master recipe. I also checked out the authors' blog, which has some important tips. The above loaf is the result, my third batch.

Here's the deal: you mix up a very wet dough, let it sit for a couple of hours, then refrigerate it. For up to two weeks, you can grab hunks of it, let it rise for an hour or so, and then bake it in a hot oven. No kneading, no punching down, very little rising. It makes three boules like this. Easy and it tastes pretty good, too, especially as toast.

It's almost summer, when I don't heat up the house by making bread. I'll decide next winter if this new method will completely replace the old way. It just might.

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