Two Recent Conversations Over Breakfast

A couple of weeks ago:
Shane, eating breakfast: “Where did this bread come from?”
E, making coffee: “It’s just the normal baguette.”
Shane: “Oh! It’s really good! I thought maybe it was still some of the Roadhouse bread that Gemma had bought.”
E: “That’s maybe the best compliment you’ve ever made about my cooking!”

And then this morning:
Shane, eating breakfast: “Why does your food taste better than my food?”
E: “My food has a greater degree of chaos”

24 Loaves: Month 1

In the last month, I’ve baked 8 loaves from the basic Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day recipe.

Five boules, which were more or less successful. The first couple were great, including the two I baked while extremely hung over the weekend of my birthday. That’s the beautiful thing about this recipe – even if your head is throbbing and you want nothing more than to be horizontal, you can shape a loaf and get it in the oven and have fresh bread to sop up last night’s indulgence in little more than an hour. We had a couple of loaves come out a bit spongy and without the gorgeous crackly crust, which I think was because I baked them at a lower temperature than was prescribed. I also think that I’m going to add a bit more flour in the next batch, as the dough has been really wet.

Look at that!

Two pathetic demi-baguettes made with the ends of the first batch of dough. They tasted fine, but were difficult to shape and never really rose.

Flat Baguettes

One ciabatta, which I forgot to photograph, but which we used for sandwiches the other weekend with roast beef and good mustard.

One gorgeous baguette, so gorgeous and perfect that I went out in the snow just to take photos. Crackly crust, great crumb, can’t wait to bake another one.

Baguette!

Technically this amounts to eight loaves in one month, but really it was just one recipe and a bunch of different shapes. I figure that’s a good start, right?

24 Loaves: Basic Boule

So tonight I made this sauce.  Except that instead of velvet buttery goodness after 45 minutes, after an hour and a half the sauce was still chunky and would not reduce.  I spooned a cup or so of sauce over a leftover chicken breast and warmed them together in the oven, hoping and hoping that the rest of the sauce would reduce.  Um, nope.  Are you sensing a theme to this week?  Oh well, it was still tasty, and after another hour and a half on the stove, it’s finally getting impossibly rich.  Too bad we ate dinner an hour ago.

DSCF5137

But that wasn’t what I came here to tell you about today. Today is all about the bread.

Blessed Boule

One of my resolutions this year was to learn to bake different kinds of bread: 24 loaves, to be precise. While I’ve made pita bread and English muffins since embracing this challenge, this was technically my first loaf of 2011. The Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method relies on a slow ferment – like the No Knead Bread recipe that failed me (or I it). I started with the basic recipe, which makes enough for four one pound loaves.

First, mix everything up in a lidded (but not air-tight) vessel large enough to handle the rise:

Rising Bucket

After two hours in the warm kitchen, the dough more than doubled in size:

2 Hours Later

At this point, you could scoop out a pound of dough and bake yourself a beautiful loaf – or you could stick the bucket in the fridge to continue to ferment. Here’s where this recipe is different from the No-Knead Bread. The cold rise does something wonderful to the dough: it allows the good bacteria to ferment and the long-chain starches to break down into sugars.

When you’re ready to bake, you scoop out and shape a beautiful boule, then let it rise 40 minutes at room temperature while your oven warms up. 30 minutes in the oven, and you’ve got this:

Look at that!

We ate the whole damned thing before the steam stopped rising. And I can’t wait to bake another loaf, except that I might need to run a few more miles before I do.

Recipes:
Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter from Smitten Kitchen
Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day from the book of the same title, by way of Alexandra’s Kitchen