How to/ Basics,  Recipes

Bread and Wine; Girl’s Night Out and A How to Bake Bread Class

How to bake bread- Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes per day

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 homemade 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 of loaves of bread, 2 pizzas, and a Blueberry Lemon Curd Tart. We’re already talking about what to make for the next Girl’s Night.

The table before everyone arrives.

How to bake bread using the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes Per Day method:

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

Bread Recipe used With Permission from Author Zoe Francois
Prep Time2 hrs 40 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time3 hrs 10 mins
Course: Bread
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Bread
Servings: 12 Servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

Making the dough

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Forming the boule 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.
  • Taking the fresh, hot loaf out of the oven.

Notes

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.
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.

 

 

Forming the boule and making the “gluten cloak”.

Taking the fresh, hot loaf out of the oven.

21 Comments

  • Marta

    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.

  • Vivian Boroff

    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!

    • formerchef

      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.

  • Kristin

    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!

    • formerchef

      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.

  • Zoë François

    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

  • NanetteM

    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?

    • formerchef

      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.

  • Dave S

    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?
    Cheers/Dave

  • Susy García

    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

    • formerchef

      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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