A few months ago, I decided that I need to develop my skills (a la Napoleon Dynamite). And one skill I decided to focus on was baking: specifically, I wanted to begin baking all the bread that our family ate by the end of winter.
To this end, I picked up a book with a promising title and some very promising endorsements: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. (Mimi had a great post about it too.)The book's premise is simple but intriguing: by mixing a very wet dough and allowing it to rise, unkneaded, then storing it in the refrigerator for up to 14 days, you can have the makings of an easily-shaped and supremely delicious loaf of bread on hand at all times.
I read the first few chapters of the book through several times, then invested in the necessary hardware. An oven thermometer--our newish crappyish stove is notoriously unreliable in most ways. An all-wood pizza peel--the loaves are shaped on top of the peel, then slid deftly onto a preheated pizza stone. I already had the stone (Alton Brown recommends an unglazed quarry tile), so no bucks out of my budget there.
Then almost two weeks ago, I went ahead and mixed. The result was rather unpromisingly gloppy. I didn't have time on the first day to shape & bake, and the book recommended letting the dough rest at least overnight before baking anyway. One thing led to another. Life got in the way. The dough languished for almost a week.
And then on Friday, Joe, Karan, Jac and Mike arrived at our house for a visit. I went into full-on cleaning orgy mode all afternoon (and was duly mocked for it by our so-tender friends). The house was completely clean; I still had an hour before they were due; what to do, what to do? So I dug the well-aged and bubbly dough out of the refrigerator, shaped a rather amateurish-looking boule out of a grapefruit-sized chunk of it, let it rest on a cornmeal-dusted peel, preheated the oven for a full 20 minutes and grinned in glee as the loaf, far from sticking miserably to the peel as I'd expected, glided into place on the pizza stone and proceeded to bake up into quite a delicious and satisfyingly sour end result.
That first loaf took all of a quarter of an hour to disappear after our guests arrived. The second loaf went just as quickly. I wanted to make more dough, but didn't have enough flour; Karan and Joe went on a special grocery run to get more flour.
Anyway, I've now mixed up a second batch and sent Joe and Karan home with half of it.We had a loaf of bread with dinner last night and will probably make another tomorrow. My boules are still not perfectly shaped, but I'm feeling comfortable enough with the basics to start venturing into more complicated (and more whole-grain-oriented) territory.
So. Breadmaking for those with little interest in either bread machines or hand-kneading. Sourdough without fussing with a starter. Real homemade bread with no dough conditioners or preservatives or high fructose corn syrup or what-the-hell-ever. Chalk me up as a total convert.
Also: I bought a special issue of Fine Cooking yesterday... all about roasting! And I put a cookbook called All About Braising, as recommended by Bitten, on hold at the library. Stay tuned for updates!
Also also: the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day have a blog. RAD.