It’s hard to believe that I have finally reached 100 posts.  Not necessarily 100 recipes, but 100 posts altogether.  It’s been quite a journey, and I am so glad that so many of you have stuck around to read my blog about my picky eating habits.  When I started this I had no idea what was going to happen, and I am proud to say that since I started this I have been branching out and making tons and tons of new dishes…which I had to do anyway, because I can only talk about my awesome mac and cheese once without boring the pants off my readers.

For my 100th post I wanted to do something a bit fun, and no, I sadly did not make some outlandish cupcakes like I did for my blogiversary.  As you may remember, I was in a bread phase back in winter of 2008/2009.  For Christmas that year Brad (he commented on a post, revealing his mysterious identity, that wasn’t really mysterious at all) and I had received 3 bread baking books.  Which is kind of a lot.  One of them happened to be Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  Since it required a bit of extra equipment (a dough proofing bucket, of all things, not exactly breaking the bank here), I didn’t touch it for over a year.  Fast forward to this winter, when I decide we need to start baking our own bread again.

I happen to own everything else the recipes called for, a pizza stone, a pizza peel.  It was just that silly little bucket.  So after doing some searching at my local stores, I had to turn to handy-dandy King Arthur Flour and order one.  We also took the opportunity to order some sourdough starter, as Brad had let it die when we were closing on our condo.  In his defense we had a lot going on, and keeping that stuff alive was not really a priority.

I also bought a 5 gallon bucket from Home Depot to keep my 25 pound bag of all-purpose flour in.  If you happen to shop at Costco, they carry KAF all-purpose, and it’s dirt cheap, and totally worth it if you have space for it.  Thanks to my handy-dandy cabinets, I do in fact have space for it.

This recipe is incredibly easy to make, and while I am still tweaking with bread size in order to make the perfect loaf (some were undercooked, too small, too large, etc.), I’ve got a pretty good system down right now.  I also like to experiment with using some wheat flour and sourdough starter in with the main recipe.  There are a million variations, and I haven’t even tried shaping my bread into anything else but a ball.  Having homemade bread is the most amazing thing, and this recipe makes it so easy and fast, you can have fresh-baked bread with dinner ANY night!

Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day

Source: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (cookbook)

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tb. granulated yeast (I use rapid rise, I buy it by the jar)
1 1/2 tb. salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose white flour (I also will use 1-2 cups of whole wheat, making it 4 1/2 – 5 1/2 cups white and 1-2 cups wheat)
Sourdough starter (optional)

In your 6 quart dough bucket, mix water, yeast, and salt.  Don’t worry about dissolving the yeast.  Mix in the flour using a wooden spoon, there is no kneading necessary.  You can mix everything using a stand mixer, but I prefer to just mix it all in the bucket, no cleanup necessary!

The dough should be wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of the container it will be stored in.

Cover the bucket loosely with a lid (do not make airtight).  Let it rise for at least 2 hours, doubling the dough.  Room temperature and water temperature will determine how long it needs to rise, as warmer water makes it harder for yeast to rise as quickly.

At this point I put it in the fridge and wait to bake the next day.

When you want to bake, start by preheating your oven to 450, and place a pizza stone in the cold oven, allowing it to warm up completely.  The book doesn’t have you do this, but my stone would be too cold and cause some loaves to explode, as the bottom wasn’t warm enough.  Also place a broiler pan on a rack below the stone.

Take your dough out of the fridge, sprinkle with some flour, and using a serrated bread knife, cut off a piece that weighs about a pound (about the size of a grapefruit, again, I have been playing with size, as some come out denser than others).

Don’t knead the dough, but shape it into a ball, handling for less than a minute, as you want all the delicious gas bubbles to stay in tact, to make for artisan bread.  Dust your pizza peel with cornmeal, and place loaf on it.  Allow to rise, uncovered, for at least 40 minutes.  You can let rise longer, as apparently that will help the bread be less dense (I haven’t tried this yet, but will with my next loaf).

Once you are ready to bake, place 1 cup of very hot water into the broiler pan, as it will create a steam environment in the oven and make for a crusty and delicious bread.  Sprinkle dough with some flour, and cut slices in the top, about a 1/4 inch into dough, so that it can expand a bit while baking.  Slide dough into oven, and bake for at least 30 minutes, sometimes more, until dough is dark on the outside and the bottom is fully cooked.  Remove from oven and allow to fully cool on a cooling rack.

Store bread cut side down on a cutting board.

Store remaining dough in fridge for up to 14 days, and dough will ripen with age, so the longer it is in there, the more flavor it will develop!

For the sourdough, I haven’t quite gotten the hang of the right proportions, I usually use a cup of starter, but haven’t been changing the amount of flour or water, which I apparently should have.  Bread baking is an art, and in my experience takes a lot of experimentation until you get the right proportions and what works for your oven.