Thursday, April 5, 2012

Home-Baked Bread...Yes, you can!

Homemade Bread 
 Easier than you might think!
(I'm sorry I didn't find out about this much sooner.)
I should start out by saying, this posting does not include a recipe. It can be found in the book mentioned below. This is my review of the bread-baking method that, as suggested on the cover of the book, "revolutionizes home baking." You can go directly to the link at the bottom of this posting for a direct route to the authors' website, which also does not give the recipe. They want to sell books, right? However, I found the purchase of the book to be worth every penny. Read on to find out more about why....

Finding delicious fat-free bread of the kind we like with a crispy crust on the exterior and a moist, dense crumb, was getting somewhat difficult and expensive. Our local grocery store sells this type of bread, but it was getting close to $5 for a loaf, pushing me towards this goal I have long had of trying to bake homemade bread. I never attempted it because I had been scared off by all the time and effort it seemed to require.

I had heard mixed reviews on the use of bread machines, and I didn't relish the idea of devoting a great deal of time to preparing homemade bread using traditional methods.  I happened to find out about a no-knead method that, not including rising and cooking time, promised to take no more than 5 minutes prep time on baking day. I researched it a bit, read reviews, and decided to take the plunge and purchase the book that makes that claim:
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and Zoe Francois
After about a month of baking bread using this method, I can attest to the minimal prep time and ease with which delicious homemade bread can be produced. The basic bread dough recipe is fat free, and can be adapted to produce a wide variety of breads, rolls, pizzas, flatbreads, and pastries. 

In a nutshell, the process involves mixing up a batch of dough and then setting it on the counter to rise, after which you stick it in the refrigerator and pull off enough dough each time you want to bake a loaf of bread. You don't have to mix a new batch of dough every time you want to make bread, there is no kneading involved, and no punching down the dough and allowing it to re-rise. You can double the dough recipe, you can freeze the dough to use later on, or you can parbake the loaves and freeze them for finish-off baking just before mealtime. The cost is minimal, and you get the benefit of the heavenly aroma of bread baking in the oven (if you've ever smelled bread baking, you already know what I'm talking about...irresistable!!).

I typically use the dough to form a 2-pound loaf in a 9x4x3 nonstick loaf pan, the end result being the size and shape of a loaf of traditional sandwich bread (see photo at the top of this posting). It's important to note the authors stress that nonstick pans must be used when baking this type of loaf, as the dough is a "wet" dough, and will stick to traditional pans no matter how much you grease them. It's also important to be aware that fresh home-baked bread has a shorter shelf life because there are no added preservatives. I usually slice the loaf after it has cooled completely and freeze the slices in packets of four, pulling a packet out as needed (thawing in the refrigerator overnight). Or, I parbake the loaves and freeze them, thaw them in the refrigerator the night before I need them, and finish off the baking(only about 10 minutes or so).

You really do need to get your hands on the book to get more specific instructions and procedures for this method; however, I do promise that the method is so simple you'll wonder why more people don't use it. Probably they feel intimidated by the amount of time and effort they perceive is involved in baking bread. I used to feel the same way, and only wish I had known sooner that it could be so simple. 

The authors have a website that offers recipes, FAQ's, and more information on the book above, as well as two others they've written (Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day, and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day). Follow the link below to get more information about them and their books.