23 March 2010
never would've believed it.
My Christmas gift to myself was this book that's had all my favorite home/making bloggers abuzz for the past year or so. And my goodness, is it worth the hype. I never, ever, would have believed I would become the kind of person who would bake fresh bread regularly--and now I do!
I have so far tried only the regular boule and the light wheat version, pictured here, but I now feel like I have those down and would like to move on to the brioche, shaped loaves, and other "fancy" breads. Still, I think these basic, great-with-dinner (then toasted with coffee the next morning) loaves will be my standbys.
Amy Karol and Erin Harris have both posted helpful comments on baking with the book, and you can also check out the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day website for errata and new recipes and ideas. So I'll just add a few of my own beginners' thoughts here, for anyone who's interested:
--The book comes with a pretty extensive equipment list to optimize your baking. I do not yet own most of those items, and this was keeping me from trying anything at first. Then I decided to wing it. Things have gone fine. For example, I do not own a bread stone or pizza peel, so I have been using a well-dusted bamboo cutting board and a cookie sheet in the oven. I also ordered an oven thermometer, but it does not work--again, no major disasters.
--I *do* think that having all the right supplies will make this bread-making process even better, so those items have moved to the top of my thrifting look-out and/or birthday lists. In the meantime, I read that you can use an unglazed ceramic tile in place of an "official" bread stone, so I may try that next--I think they are $1-2 at home depot.
--The authors advise working with a "grapefruit-sized" portion of dough to form your loaves. I guess I eat smaller grapefruits than they do, because I found that my first loaves were too small, and therefore the crust/crumb ratio felt off. So, I've been envisioning more of a "melon-sized" ball, and that works for me.
--Again, I underestimated how deep my slashes on top should be--keeping them consistent and on the deeper side seems to work best, allowing for the loaf to open up more as it bakes.
--The loaf on the right above is cracked because I did not get a smooth enough ball at the "gluten cloak" phase of shaping the loaf. I don't often have that problem, but it does illustrate the importance of that shaping step.
Well, I'll leave off there--there are many other bloggers who have written about this book, so I'd encourage you to check out their notes as well. You really, really should try this--it's even easier than it sounds.