Friday, February 27, 2009

How to Make Bread

This past weekend, I made bread using my favorite cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Have I mentioned that I adore this book? I tried out a new recipe for pumpernickel bread, which is my favorite bread of all time and extremely difficult to find here in Montana. While not quite as pumpernickel-y as I would have liked, this bread was still wholesome, delicious, and darn easy to prepare. How easy? you ask. Let me show you!

1. Mix up the dough. Let it rise, covered, for two hours. Even just the rising loaf, without any oven involvement, will make your home smell yummy. Soak it up, baby.

2. Refrigerate the dough for up to two weeks. Indulge your inner procrastinator.

3. Baking day! Using wet hands, pull off a hunk of dough from the main batch. Shape it into a ball, then turn it into whatever shape floats your boat. Let the dough rise for another 40 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven. Just before sticking your bun in the oven, paint the loaf with a cornstarch wash.

5. Sprinkle the top of the loaf with caraway seeds, then slash it with a bread knife. Try not to cackle maniacally.

6. Bake! About 35-40 minutes in the oven. Enjoy the even yummier aroma than the bread rising as your loaf bakes. Discreetly wipe up any drool.

7. Allow the loaf to cool completely. Resist temptation! Do not eat it hot from the oven! You can do it! You . . . can . . . okay, give in and devour. Life's too short for cooling when there's freshly baked bread at stake. Enjoy it plain, as a sandwich, as a dipping side for soup/stew, with a spread, or any other way you can think of.

Easy, right? See, even you can bake artisan-quality bread without crazy amounts of skill or kneading. I've made quite a few loaves using this cookbook, and I haven't messed up one yet. (That, by the way, is a testament to the awesomeness of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day as opposed to my own baking chops.) Obviously, there are a couple of more details to fill into this rough guide, but that's why you need to buy this book! Home-baked bread = crusty happiness.

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