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Get that bread

Quite some time ago, I committed to combining my professional blog posts here with the ones I make about crafts and recipes and things like that. And yet, I sometimes go multiple years without making a craft post, when I never ever go multiple years without crafting something. I’m just bad about documenting it, not only here, but on Ravelry.

It’s easier when I feel like I have something worth documenting! In this case, I want to tell you about my take on the New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day recipe. It’s worth saying at the outset: they make their main recipe available online without the purchase of the book. There are enough useful tips and other recipes in the book that I still found the new edition worth buying (at Half Price Books, admittedly), on top of the original I already had, but your mileage may vary. Also worth saying: they tell you how to do their bread in a Dutch oven online, too. (And not, that I’ve found, in any of their books.)

The things I want to add to the discussion: 1) a couple of hacks for people who, like me, do not have a kitchen fan that vents outdoors (I promise I’ll explain why this matters) and who like at least a little bit of whole grain in their bread, plus 2) photos of some of the steps they don’t show as clearly in the book, that I felt like I had to figure out on my own. I’m still experimenting (always!), but I have a base recipe/approach that I like and that I think is good enough to share.

My approach

The first part of the recipe starts their way: if it isn’t your first batch, keep back just a little bit of dough from the previous batch (a couple of ounces is all I bother with), to help it develop the sourdoughy flavor more quickly, and add it to your 3 cups of ~100 degree F water, 1Tbsp of yeast, and 1Tbsp of Kosher salt. Like they say, you’ll want 32 ounces of flour, but here’s the mix I use: 10-12 ounces of whole grain (my last batch was 4 ounces of oat flour and 9 ounces of King Arthur whole wheat flour) and the rest is King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose flour. The brand of the white flour is only important if you’re going to put in more than, oh, maybe about a cup of whole grain (and especially if any of it is non-gluten-containing, like oat): King Arthur has a fairly high gluten content, enough that you can get a nicely-textured bread, even with a third of your flour being whole wheat, without requiring any additives.

Side note about the mixing process: for anyone reading this who, like me, has hand or shoulder pain, a KitchenAid stand mixer (not the very smallest one, but yes, their standard model) with the paddle (not the dough hook!) will mix all of it up really nicely. My mixer was a hand-me-down from my mom, who didn’t use it anymore, and even if I only ever use it for bread, it’s worth the counter space! (I use it for other things, though.) I made the previous version of this recipe for over a year, back when I lived in Alaska, but I eventually stopped because I dreaded the process of mixing the dough by hand. The mixer has been a game changer.

Once it’s all mixed, you put the dough into a large container (if it’s designed to be airtight, use a nail to poke a hole in the top of the container, or else leave the lid loose so that gases can escape) and let it rise until it flattens out.

After it’s done rising, it goes in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake, you take it back out. It’ll look like this:

You’ll dust with flour, like I did above, and then you’ll reach in, pull out about a grapefruit-sized piece of dough (you’re aiming for 4 loaves per batch), probably using a serrated knife to cut it so you can form a ball.

pulling up a ball of very wet dough

The book talks at more length than I will about the forming of the ball and the process of building a “gluten cloak,” but I’ll show you what the before and after look like, anyway:

You’ll note the silicone baking mat. You can’t use that if you’re following their directions, because they bake at 500 degrees F; I do not. If you go by the main recipe, you’ll put cornmeal on the pizza peel before you lay the loaf down to rise, and you’ll place a pizza stone and an empty metal pan into the oven when you go to preheat; I don’t do that anymore, because I use the Dutch oven method. But also! If you go by their Dutch oven recipe, you’ll still set your oven to 500 degrees, which I argue is unnecessary. At 500 degrees, a number of things burn, and unless you have a very good kitchen fan, you’ll have a smoky kitchen. My fan vents right back into my kitchen, so a 500 degree oven is a non-starter for me.

I did use parchment paper for a while, instead of the baking mat. In some ways, it was easier? But for some reason, my loaves started sticking to the paper after a couple of weeks of doing it that way. When I realized my little cheapie baking mat (an Aldi find!) was rated for above 450, I tried that, and I like it a lot! It sure beats scraping paper off the bottom of a loaf of bread. (I specify that it’s rated for “above 450,” rather than 450 flat, because I haven’t used an oven thermometer in this oven yet. I don’t actually know how hot it gets, so I wanted to leave wiggle room, just in case. Oven temperatures are really just an approximation, did you know that? Yeah, fun fact.)

Anyway, yes. I let the dough sit for at least 15 minutes, and then I pre-heat the oven and the Dutch oven at 450 degrees F. Once I know they’re fully heated (30 minutes), I sprinkle more flour on top of the dough, slash it with a serrated knife, and gently place it into the very hot Dutch oven.

At 450 F, I let the bread steam for 17 minutes, instead of the recipe’s suggested 15. I think it looks really nice at that point:

A steamy boi.

And then I bake it for about 15 more minutes with the lid off, until it’s good and crispy on the outside. It makes a crackling sound as it cools! And you have to let it cool completely before you can cut it, unless you’re eating the whole thing right away. (I won’t judge.) It messes it up if you cut it while it’s hot and then try to store it.

Now, my method isn’t perfect. The bottom gets more brown than I want, in a couple of spots where the baking mat touches the bottom of the Dutch oven. (It doesn’t taste burnt, but it sure looks bad.) Also, I burned the heck out of my forearm on the Dutch oven, one time, so I recommend buying very long baking gloves that are rated up to 500 degrees. So. Maybe there’ll be an updated post where I’ve figured out the burning issue and … still wear tall gloves, honestly, because hot ceramic-covered metal hurts a lot.

Just a side note, but if you find you need to use up the dough and don’t need more loaves of bread, it makes a pretty good pizza!

a large, unevenly-shaped pizza with broccoli on it
Published inbooksrecipes

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