Bread and Wine; Girl's Night Out "How to Bake Bread" Class

by formerchef on June 22, 2009

Click here for Printable Recipe


One night, I posted on Twitter;
“Dinner: Homemade bread, toasted, with butter and a Paso Robles Zinfandel. Yep that’s it. Nothin’ wrong with that is there?”
A friend of mine quickly replied that it sounded good to her, and I suggested I show her and some other friends how easy it is to bake one’s own bread. It soon became known as the “Bread and Wine” Girl’s Night. Plans made, babysitters, husbands reserved, and cabs ordered.

The kernel of the idea actually began a couple of months ago when I started having a hankering to make bread. I kept coming across references to the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day on food blogs and on Twitter. Then I found one of its authors, Zoe Francois on Twitter and checked out her bread blog. Soon I was sold on trying the method and bought the book.

My first experience with making the bread was almost a complete failure. I am at times an impatient cook, and decided to start making the dough without measuring my flour first.
It looked like 6 1/2 cups in the flour crock.”
But it wasn’t; I was short about 3/4 of a cup of flour. In addition, the flour I did have was most likely bleached flour (I couldn’t remember). My loaves came out flat and under-cooked.

The next batch was better. I used King Arthur unbleached white flour which has more protein and the resulting loaves were much improved. Finally, I got the hang of it and was able to have freshly baked bread pretty much whenever I wanted. After that, I wanted to share my joy with the world. One of my goals with this blog has always been to show people how easy it can be to make great food at home and home made bread certainly fits the bill.

I’d also been wanting to teach cooking again, though in a much less formal setting than I’d done in the past. Meaning, I wanted a class where I could drink wine and gossip. Bread, wine, pizza, friends; what more could a girl want? I think the evening was a resounding success. The six of us enjoyed many bottles of wine,  a couple loaves of bread, 2 pizzas and a Blueberry Lemon Curd Tart (recipe to come later). We’re already talking about what to make for the next Girl’s Night.

The table before everyone arrives.

  GNwine    GNgirls

GNpizza    GNgarden
Wine and Bread. Pizza and a visit to the garden.


Thanks very much to my friend Tris for snapping photos while my hands were covered with flour!

Master Bread Recipe
Adapted From Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

With Permission from Author Zoe Francois

Making the Dough

3 cups warm water
1 ½ Tbsp Granulated Yeast (1 ½ packages)
1 ½ Tbsp Kosher Salt
6 ½ cups unsifted, unbleached, all purpose white flour

Put the warm water in a large bowl or plastic food container with a lid (not air-tight).

Add the yeast and salt to the water.

Add in the flour, measuring with dry-measuring cups, using the “scoop and sweep” method. Don’t pack the flour into the cup. Mix the flour into the water with a wooden spoon. You can also do this in a large heavy duty stand mixer with dough hook attachment. Mix until the dough has come together and there are no dry patches or clumps of flour. The dough will be wet.

GNflour    breaddough1
Measuring with the scoop and sweep method. Mixed dough before it rises.

Cover and allow to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse or flatten on top (about 2 hours).

At this point you can use the dough, but it’s easier to handle when cold. Cover with lid and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. The dough should keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The batch should yield 4 one pound loaves.

Baking the Bread

Sprinkle the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour. Grab a handful of dough (1 pound is about grapefruit sized) and cut it off from the batch.

breaddough3    breaddough4
Forming theboule and making the “gluten cloak”.

With a little extra flour to keep it from sticking, hold the dough in your hands and stretch the dough around the sides and underneath to form a ball. This is called the “gluten cloak”.

Let the ball of dough rest, either on a baking sheet or pizza peel covered with cornmeal. The recipe suggests using a pizza peel to move the dough to a baking stone in the oven. I don’t have a peel or a stone so I’ve had to improvise. Most of the time I use a baking sheet with a  Silpat Silicone Baking Mat on it and but I’ve also baked directly on an unglazed terracotta tile. Both came out good.

Let the dough rest for 40 minutes.

Twenty minutes before baking, turn on the oven to 450 degrees. Put your oven rack in the middle of the oven and baking stone on that, if you have one. Put an empty pan or broiler tray on the bottom rack or floor of the oven (this will hold water later).

Right before baking, dust the top of the loaf with flour and slash with a knife in a cross or tic tac toe pattern.

Put the loaf of bread in the oven and add 1 cup of water to the broiler pan (be careful!). This creates steam which will help the bread make a great crust.

Bake the loaf for about 30 minutes or until it is nicely browned.

GNKoven    breadloaf
Taking the fresh, hot loaf out of the oven.

 There is so much more information in the book about the “hows and whys” of baking bread. I highly recommend you buy the book because I can’t possibly put all the details here. There is a link to the book on my Books and Gear Page.

Some lessons I learned after making a dozen loaves:

Use unbleached flour. Bleached flour gives a different consistency (more on this in the book). My first batch never quite rose the way it should have because of this.

I get about 3 loaves per batch because I like a bigger loaf. This means a slightly longer baking time.

The dough really will hold in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Over time it takes on a more “sourdough” type of flavor.

I haven’t bought a loaf of french bread since buying this book. It’s just too easy to make my own.

Tip: Don’t mistakenly put a loaf of bread into an oven that’s been super-heated for pizza. Trust me, it’s not pretty.

Herb Bread: The book says to mix herbs into the dough with the water mixture. One day I chopped up some fresh rosemary (about 1 Tbsp) and sprinkled it onto a handful of pre-made dough. I worked it into the dough with a little light kneading as I made the gluten cloak. This worked just fine and made wonderful, fragrant, Rosemary Bread.

Click here for Printable Recipe

1 Maria June 22, 2009 at 7:32 am

I am a huge fan of ABin5. It makes the best bread and is so easy! Wonderful post. Looks like everyone had a fabulous time!

2 Marta June 22, 2009 at 11:27 am

I’ve been making this bread for about a year and it always turns out great. It is so easy – it just takes a little time to prepare and bake before dinner. I’ve cut back the salt and yeast to 1 tbs and it works fine. It was a little salty for me. You can also make a great olive loaf by cutting up a handfull of Kalamata olives and kneading in similar technique to your Rosemary bread.

3 Mommy With a Penis June 23, 2009 at 10:36 pm

Yours might be the most beautiful blog I’ve ever seen. Truthfully. It’s like a stunning cook book. I love looking at the pictures, but am nervous about attempting the recipes.

4 formerchef June 23, 2009 at 11:07 pm

No need to be nervous. You may just have to come to the next “girls night” and see how easy it can be!

5 Vivian Boroff June 26, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Well done as usual! I love this recipe and ABin5 is now standing out as one of my faves. At first it was a little strange to disregard all I had learned about baking bread, but with the results turning out so well I am adjusting to the differences (wet dough for bread seemed so weird). I loved that you did a teaching party using this technique. An education and wine to boot!

6 Chez Us September 11, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Great idea, I love it, more than the traditional book club! 😉

7 Kristin January 24, 2010 at 10:14 am

Thank you for showing me this can actually be done. I’m having trouble believing it, given my attempts!

I linked to this page, and to one of your photos, on my family blog. I’m concerned now I probably wasn’t supposed to use your photo. Please let me know if this isn’t kosher, and I will gladly take it down.

8 formerchef January 24, 2010 at 10:22 am

Kristin-What you did (photo with link and explanation) is perfectly fine with me.
As for the bread dough, it looks like it was too wet. Did you make sure to use unbleached flour? There’s something about the gluten content of unbleached flour which makes the dough harder to handle. My first experience was also a fail because of this.
I’m still making bread on a regular basis with the ABin5 method. Once you get it down it really is super easy.

9 Kristin January 24, 2010 at 11:48 am

Thank you so much for the quick reply!

My problem is that I’m using spelt flour. It worked in the beginning – when it rested in a basket and baked in a clay baker. But it seems to be getting wetter over time. I’m working on adding more flour and gluten to the mix. Hoping this will help. Thank you so much for confirming my suspicions – too darn wet!

10 formerchef January 24, 2010 at 12:04 pm

You should consider contacting Zoe Francois, the book’s author (she’s on Twitter). She might have some ideas for you. Also, I think in her newest book, they have recipes with a lot of different flours, including many gluten free.

11 Zoë François January 24, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Hi Kristin,

I fell in love with Spelt flour while we were writing our second book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The flavor is incredible. It has less gluten than regular whole wheat and therefore will make for a much wetter dough if you are just trying to replace spelt for whole wheat. You need to add some vital wheat gluten to boost the amount of protein, which will lighten up your dough. There are several recipes using spelt in the new book if you get a chance to check it out.

Thanks for trying the method! Cheers, Zoë

12 formerchef January 24, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Thank you Zoe for answering the question!

13 NanetteM June 12, 2010 at 5:19 pm

I am also a fan of Abin5. I love your idea of girls night out! I’d like to try the cooking class idea. Would be fun to turn friends onto this bread! So I guess the bread baking took about 1 1/2 hours with resting time and baking time. Right? So you all just hung out and drank wine while you were waiting? Was it mostly demo by you or did everyone have a part to do? Any recommendations on how to make it successful?

14 formerchef June 12, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Hi Nanette-
It was fun! We’ve been talking about doing another one.
I made up a batch of dough the day before. When everyone arrived, I showed them how to measure and mix a new batch. Then, I pulled out the dough which was ready and made a couple of loaves. Those loaves rested while we chatted, drank wine, I made some pizzas, etc. So it was mostly demo by me, but that seemed fine with everyone.
Looking back, I may have actually put a loaf in the oven, or at least had one ready to go in by the time they arrived. That’s what I’d do if I were to do it again anyway.

15 Dave S November 7, 2011 at 4:41 am

Well, first let me say thank you for both the recipe and the teaching format. I’ve been baking for a little over 30 years now but have just stumbled upon the ABin5 method. I’ve been doing other no-knead breads for several years but agree, the ABin5 bread is super for busy people who want fresh bread in the evening.
As for the teaching idea, I trust you really wouldn’t mind if I borrowed your ideas to use in a class at our church?

16 Susy García November 11, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Thanks for the recipe! What kind of yeast did you use? the “fast one”?
I don’t have much experience with yeast, a couple of weeks ago I tried to bake a traditinal Mexican bread for El Día de los Muertos (All hollows eve), but my bread didn’t raise. I know the problem was in the yeast. I used the “fast” one.

Any recommendations on that?

Thanks again!

Susy G

17 formerchef November 11, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I use regular granulated yeast, not the fast rise, nor the cake/fresh yeast. Just basic red star brand. I buy it in a 1 lb bag from Smart and Final rather than those little packets.

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