I always like to grow and make my own food whenever possible, but the last two years living in the big city have made this difficult. Now that I’m on a min-retirement in the Czech Rebublic, it is much easier to find a balanced lifestyle, where I can do things like make bread for my family, even though I myself am gluten sensitive.
So this is my own take on Jeff and Zoe’s Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Part of my yoga practice is being ok with people not being straight up with things in order to have a compelling title, as Jeff and Zoe did here. The actual process of making their bread takes me days, and even at my most efficient, it takes me about fifteen minutes to get the ingredients together, and on baking day, it takes about 4o minutes in the oven. Even still, it is pretty easy, and with some small tweaks to the process, I find I’ve been able to get great results.
Here’s my own tweaks on the process:
1. Get yourself a nice big bowl.
2. Get your ingredients together:
– 3 cups luke warm water, you want the yeast cozy, don’t burn them to death.
– 1 tablespoon granulated yeast. Here in the Czech Republic, they sell yeast in what looks like little bars of butter, I use about half of on of those.
– 1 tablespoon salt, I like sea salt, but have been using regular old salt over here.
– 6-1/2 cups unbleached flour. My favorite is King Arthur, made by these cool people up in Vermont. They have gluten free for me, their unbleached all purpose is also great, and they also have a nice whole wheat.
Add yeast to water and stir it around.
Add salt and stir it around.
Add about 5 cups of flour and stir it around.
Gradually add the last bit of flower until it seems like dough. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and take your time. For example, whatever is different about the flour here in Czech, I find that I need to put in a LOT more flour to get it to be like dough. The first time making it here, with 6-1/2 cups flour, it looked more like pancake batter than dough (think pizza dough if you want to know what it should look like). You don’t want it so dry that you can’t get all the flour mixed in, and I prefer it to be a little on the wet side. It looks done to me when it looks doughy, but looks wet enough that it would stick to my hands if I put them in it (I mix with a big spoon).
After I have the dough mixed, I cover the bowl with a towel, and put it next to a lamp that is throwing off a gentle heat, again, just to keep the yeast comfy and cozy so they can do their job. I let the bowl sit next to the lamp for about two hours.
After the two hours, which sometimes turns into four hours if I have something going on, I move the bowl to the fridge. No need to play with the dough or do anything to it.
Next comes the long wait. I find the best results if I leave the bread in the fridge for about 5 to 7, at which point it peaks in terms of flavor.
On baking day, I sprinkle my counter with some flour, take a good hunk of dough, about the size of a large grapefruit and put it on the dusted counter.
Next I flour my hands, grab the dough, and start folding the bottom under. I turn the dough a quarter turn, then fold under at each turn. What you are trying to do is get a thin film to form on the top of the dough, not as difficult as it sounds, don’t be affraid to just go for it! After forming the dough, I sprinkle some flour on a sheet of parchment paper and let it sit while I heat the oven.
I used to have a pizza stone for the oven, but since I didn’t want to carry it across the ocean or buy a new one here, this is my method; I place a pan of water in the bottom of the oven, and place a baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. I then heat the oven as hot as it will go – I imagine it’s around 500 degrees and let it warm for about 20 minutes.
It’s now time! I open the oven, slide out the rack with the baking sheet on it, pick up the dough by the parchment paper, and place the dough and paper in the middle of the sheet, sliding everything back in and closing the door as quickly as possible to limit heat escape.
I leave the oven on high for about 10 minutes, which seems to be the key (with the water) to forming a nice crust. After 10 minutes, I turn the oven down a bit to what I imagine is around 425 degrees. Total cooking time is about 40 minutes.
I’ve never had a problem with over cooking, but I’ve undercooked bread with this method a lot of times! Once you take it out, you can’t put it back in, so better to err on leaving it in the oven a bit longer when in doubt. If the outside burns, on your next loaf, just go with a little lower temperature.
Though you will probably be tempted, let the bread sit for at least 20 minutes before you cut it open, as it is still cooking during the sitting period.
5. Enjoy Great Bread!
So that’s it! There is some planning and timing involved, but overall, it’s very simple and the only two problems i’ve ever had are undercooking by not leaving it in the oven long enough, or burning the outside by putting the temp too high (my vintage oven doesn’t have a number temperature guage).
I’ve never had anyone who didn’t love this bread, and the only problems we’ve had is trying not to over-eat, it takes mindfulness to keep from devouring a whole fresh loaf!
Good luck, and if you have any questions, let me know!