Artisan Bread – a guest post by Mary

Note: I help Peggy with the technical details associated with producing this blog. We had several glitches this weekend. Peggy accidentally dropped her laptop breaking its display. I accidentally deleted this post! While we work on getting Peggy’s laptop issues resolved, I am republishing this post (with apologies of course.) We hope to have Peggy back on line tomorrow.

I have an older kitchen and it needs so much work. The counters are laminate, the butcher block island is cracked and the cooktop is as old as my house (a 40 year old colonial).

Money is tight right now so the granite surfaces will have to wait. I can still make you swoon when you come into my kitchen by taking a freshly baked loaf of bread out of the oven. I know what you are thinking! Who has the time? Well hang on because I’m going to explain how easy it is to make artisan bread. I bought Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and it has the recipes with clearly illustrated directions.

My husband snapped this shot of a loaf I baked several days ago. It looks good and it tastes even better than it looks. And one of the best parts? This bread is economical to make. It only takes “5 minutes a day” because the only thing you have to do is measure out and stir the ingredients, plus form the loaf when it’s time to bake.

This bread uses flour, kosher salt, yeast and water. The ingredients are stirred in a dough bucket and left on the counter to rise for 2 hours. After that, the dough bucket goes into the refrigerator. Once it’s chilled, you can make bread any time you like. The recipe makes 4 loaves. (You can use yeast from the grocery store but I linked to bulk yeast because it will save you so much money!

When you are ready to bake, you grab a handful of dough the size of a grapefruit. Make sure you don’t squish the dough. Just reach down and under to lift up the ball of dough. I use a serrated knife to cut it loose from the rest of the dough in the bucket. I gently round out the ball and set it on a pizza peel (sprinkled with cornmeal) to rise. You need a pizza peel to slide the dough into the hot oven. If you tried to pick it up, the free form ball of dough would deflate.

The bread needs to rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, you preheat your oven to 450 degrees with a pizza stone set inside. I also put a shallow metal pan on a shelf under the stone. This will hold a small amount of water to create steam during the baking process. The stone gives the crust its character; I’ve read that a large cast iron skillet works well too but I haven’t tried that personally.

After the dough has risen, I slash the ball of dough with a serrated knife and slide the loaf onto the pizza stone. 1/2 cup of water is tossed in the tray under the stone and 30 minutes later the bread is done. The steam gives the bread a beautiful golden color and the bread’s crust is crispy and crackly.

Your family will love this bread and the loaves also make great gifts for friends and neighbors.

(photo by George Cavanaugh taken at his home)

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