Monday, February 14, 2011

Artisan Bread: Getting It Right


Several readers have mentioned difficulty with the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day dough. Folks. I can help.

1. My dough is too wet or soft or slack. Don't be afraid to use a little more flour than the recipe calls for. The humidity in your environment is going to vary from the author's. Nothing bad will happen if you bump up the flour to get a manageable dough. Mine is quite manageable, maybe even a little too dry, yet the bread comes out fantastic. And don't be afraid to generously flour your board, your hands, and your stock of dough while you're making up a loaf.

2. I don't have a dough bucket. You don't actually need a dough bucket. Just get a plastic pitcher with a lid (you know, the kind made for mixing up Kool-Aid) at the thrift store. It will work great, although I wouldn't try actually *mixing* the dough up in it. Just throw it in after you've mixed it in a bowl.

3. I don't have a peel, or a baking stone either. Right. I bake mine on a regular cookie sheet, and it comes out wonderful. I use cornmeal to keep it from sticking, and I let it rise right on the pan I'm going to put in the oven.

4. My bread is too soft in the middle. Keep it in the oven until it's almost *too* brown, see if you like that better. Or make dinner rolls. Or pitas (see photo).

Always bake with confidence, and never hold yourself to some impossible standard of perfection. That's what I say.

24 comments:

Bethany Hudson said...

Another good tip for #4: Be sure to let the bread cool! I have found that if I cut into a loaf straight out of the oven, it always has a soft spot in the center. You need to let it cool for at least 15 minutes; it will still be warm, anyway, and it will slice easier.
God bless,
Bethany

Lisa said...

All right! The intrepid Anna strikes again! I'm bringing that book home from the library again.

Lisateresa

Carol said...

Anna: That is so kind of you to post these very helpful aids. Thank you. (in MD)

Sheila said...

I bake my bread in a clay cooker. Soak the pan in warm water at least 15 min...then I put my dough on a piece of parchment paper and right into the bottom of the pan....cover with a linen towel and let it rise....when it is time to bake the bread, I take the cover out of the sink full of water and put the covered pan inside a cold oven. I turn the temp to 400 degrees and bake the bread until it turns golden brown.....sometimes I take the cover off the last few minutes of baking...sometimes I forget about it...it still turns out great...the secret is the moisture in the clay from soaking it. If you do not have a clay cooker, just put a pan of hot water on the lowest rack in your oven while you bake the bread....I have done that also....I just love the simplicity of this bread.

krankemommy said...

Thank you for the encouragement! I love the recipes in the book, but they never seemed to work out the way that I anticipated, so I quit. I have a small (and young) family, so we don't get through the bread quickly and then I forget and leave it in the fridge until stuff grows on it, so next time, I am going to try freezing the dough or parbaking the bread and then freezing. I don't think you have the same problem that I do, but do you have any suggestions?

Tracy said...

Your last point is so very important Anna. I never think to be nervous about trying something new and it surprises me how often I hear that people can't make bread. Or they can't make pastry. I like to be adventurous and if I have a flop the first time I try a slight tweak.

Bake with confidence :)

Mel said...

Thanks Anna, this is very timely! My book arrived yesterday, thank to reading about it here.

Anonymous said...

Always bake with confidence, and never hold yourself to some impossible standard of perfection. That's what I say.

Words of wisdom. I still can't get the loaf right but I think I've got the rolls down pat.

Lilian

Valerie said...

Thanks so much for these tips. I love baking bread and you've inspired me to give the book another try. I'm sure my four girls and my husband will thank you, too!

Carolina Gal said...

I got this book for Christmas, and I have not had a minute to start reading it. I will save your tips for when I actually can get to baking the bread. Thanks!

Andrea R said...

What about the saltiness? Maybe it was the recipe I found, but it called for a tablespoon of salt. Our family thought that was far too much.

Erin said...

Got this book for Christmas and haven't tried it yet. But I'm hoping to soon. Thanks for the tips.

Sarah said...

Wonderful hints! I've been baking bread with this method for about a year now. I usually skip the cornmeal and let the bread rise on a sheet of parchment paper before sliding the paper and bread onto the heated cookie sheet - the texture remains very good, and cleanup is a breeze. The other thing I've found is that you really do need to let the dough chill in the fridge for at least a few hours before trying to handle it. I've tried making bread right when the initial rising was done, and it was indeed a horrible gooey mess. Chilling makes it much less sticky.

Rachel said...

You truly make the ordinary beautiful. Thank you.

Tammy said...

Anna,
I just want to say that although I haven't tried this book, I've been wanting to. But what really strikes me about this post is your last sentence!! It applys to everything: parenting, cleaning, organizing, cooking,... thank you for this reminder! I needed it today. Now I'm off to tackle some piles.
Blessings to you,
Tammy

Always bake with confidence, and never hold yourself to some impossible standard of perfection. That's what I say.

Laura said...

I remember being so nervous the first time I baked bread from scratch. I wouldn't have attempted it at all if I hadn't grown up with homemade bread.

Hannah said...

Also, I use bread flour, not regular flour (book says you can use regular, but I prefer the bread flour). And use a thermometer to make sure the bread is 200F in the middle before taking it out! If it's getting too brown and not 200 yet, you can always put some foil over the top so it stops browning. I have also tweaked the oven temperature and time in the oven to get a loaf I like. Nothing is set in stone! It's a great book, but you can always change things to make them the way you like them!

Margo said...

well, good. I read the book, but I couldn't tell which things were essential and which I could tweak.
Some of these newfangled methods (I know I sound crotchety) have to be so precise to get the desired results. Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom!

Anna said...

Yes, I forgot about the bread flour. I always use that, and it may contribute to my sturdier dough.

anna said...

Thank you! I have this book and have struggled as well - gave it up last year, now I will have to give it another go round.

Rachel said...

Two things that help as well:

1) The protein content of your flour affects the dough. If you get a flour with more protein it will absorb more water and be less sticky. King's is excellent.

Flours made in the north tend to be higher in protein because they're known for their breads while flours made in the south are lower in protein because they're known for their biscuits and cakes. And don't go by the labels in regards to protein content. It's very deceptive. Usually the best trick is seeing how much water the flour absorbs. The more water the higher the protein content.

2) Put a cookie dish with 1/2" water in the oven while the oven's warming, wait for it to steam, and then put your bread in to cook. Check to make sure the water doesn't run out periodically. I'm not sure how this works exactly, but it really helps the bread rise well and beautifully.

Cottage Mommy said...

I was never a bread baker until I tried Artisan bread in five minutes a day! I have had a lot of success with it and just last week made the challah for the first time. It turned out so beautifully and tasted just delicious! I would encourage people to try the book again as well. Baking bread really intimidated me until I tried these recipes!

Dana said...

Andrea R, I think the recipe calls for coarse salt. If you are using fine-grain, you probably only need half or so what the recipe says. The website www.artisanbreadinfive.com has a lot of helpful advice and the authors seem good about responding to questions. There is also information about adjusting the amount of water depending on what kind of flour you use.

Anonymous said...

Anna:

Thank you for adding your advise to the many women who ask.

Maria Ricci

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