I am a total failure when it comes to baking bread. Okay, maybe not a total failure as I have managed to pull of baking beer bread. Breads leavened with yeast have thus far totally escaped me. It’s my culinary unicorn.
As I have stated before, bread in its simplest state is just flour, yeast, salt, and water. Heck, sometime the salt is not even included. Trust me, bread baked without salt is hardly worth the carbs. Traditional Tuscan bread does not use salt and is just a vessel for excellent olive oil or waiting to go stale for use in soup.
The No Knead recipe made famous in the New York Times that launched a thousand or more cast iron Dutch oven bakers failed me. Or I failed it. Three times I ended up with a soupy mess. Not wet, mind you, but soupy. More like brownie batter than bread dough.
This led me to the approach favored by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. Check out their website Artisan Bread in Five. I am a total sucker for cookbooks, so I bought a used version of the original hardback and brought it home to my kitchen to get covered in beautiful flour dust.
I suggest buying the book, but the recipe is simple: 6-3-3-13. That means 6 cups of water, 3 tablespoons yeast, 3 tablespoons salt, and 13 cups flour. The ratios can be scaled down for a smaller batch, which is what I did. All of it goes in a container with a lid that is not airtight.
After a couple of hours at room temperature the whole thing goes into the refrigerator overnight and lasts up to a week. The authors claim that the lure of fresh bread daily means that no batch actually lasts that long.
To make a loaf of bread cut off a chunk of dough from the bowl, work the gluten cloak for about a minute, let rise 40 minute to an hour, and bake. Again, like the basic recipe for the dough, it sounds simple enough.
The first loaf turned out odd. I did not make the slash marks on the top of my batard so the do actually “exploded” out one end. Check it out:
The crumb structure was okay:
A little dense. The bread tasted good and was really excellent with Nutella for a quick breakfast the next morning.
My second loaf a couple of days later turned out okay as well, but had different problems:
My oven must run hot because at 25 minutes out of a suggested 30 the crust was already starting to blacken. I pulled it out so that it did not burn all over. The results were pretty tasty:
This loaf turned out a lot “airier” than the first loaf. The flavor was real similar. The crust, although a little burnt, tasted good as well and was not too thick.
Moving forward, I need to check if my oven temperature is calibrated correctly because I have had a lot of problems with other baking as well. The search for the unicorn continues.