Saturday, October 27, 2012

Something From Nothing #3: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Pain d'Epi



You might be a little bit surprised that my Something from Nothing recipe this month is for a homemade yeast bread, but please do yourself a favor and trust me on this one.  I have to admit that I was skeptical myself when I first heard of this recipe, but no more.  I'm a believer.

I have to give credit to my discovery of this recipe to blogger friend Jane of No Plain Jane's Kitchen.  She brought the most delicious loaf of olive bread to a little get together and I couldn't keep my hands out of it.  It was crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside with a pleasant briny flavor from a generous amount of shiny black olives that she had scattered throughout.  It was pretty close to perfection.

Of course I cornered her before she could get out the door and asked her for the recipe.  She nonchalantly told me that it was from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg M.D. and Zoe Francois.  Being reminded once again of how much I don't know, I had never heard of this book but was intrigued by the premise.  

Jane told me that in a nutshell, you stir up water, yeast, salt and flour, store it in the fridge, take out a little bit when you want it, shape it, bake it and voila!  I went home that night and Googled the recipe and found many sites mentioning the recipe and they all gave rave reviews of its simplicity and flavor.

After making it a couple of times, it is now my turn to give my endorsement to this genius recipe.  It is just unbelievably simple and almost fool proof with its lack of kneading and long rising time.  Even beginners can make this bread with confidence.  Best of all you can change it up by mixing in herbs, olives, cheese or changing its shape like I have done here and make something spectacular.   This recipe even makes enough basic dough for 4 - 5 delicious loaves that you can store in your fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - Master Recipe

This actually takes a bit longer than 5 minutes from fridge to table, but it is still super simple.  The 5 minutes refers to the hands on preparation time which is minimal.

3 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon (2 packages) granulated yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt 
6 - 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a 5 - 6 quart lidded container combine the water yeast and salt.  Add the flour in all at once and stir with a long handled spoon or dough whisk just until it is mixed together.  I did this step in the bowl of my stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and it worked great.  At this point the dough will be very wet and rough looking.

Since I don't have a really big container with a lid, I transfered my dough to my large oval slow cooker crock which I greased with a little olive oil, covered it loosely with the lid (to let the gases escape) and set it on the counter top for two hours to rise.

After the two hour rising time the dough will pretty much fill the container.  Do not punch it down as it will settle on its own.  At this time the dough will probably be flat on top with bubbles that appear to be popped. 

You can now remove some of the dough (floured kitchen shears makes removal very easy) and bake, or place in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks to use later. 

The next day you will notice that the dough has collapsed.  This is the intended nature of the dough and it will never again rise in the fridge.  Before removing any of the dough, sprinkle the top with just bit of all-purpose flour to keep it from sticking to your hands.

Remove a piece of dough about the size of a grapefruit.  To shape the dough into a boule or ball, stretch it between your hands rolling and tucking it to the bottom.  Rest the dough on a piece of parchment paper or a cornmeal covered pizza peel.  Let the dough rise on the counter top for 40 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.   Place a pizza stone or heavy metal cookie sheet inside the oven to preheat as well.  Place a metal (not glass as it could shatter) baking pan on a rack at least 5 inches under the stone and preheat it as well.

Slide the bread onto the preheated pizza stone or cookie sheet.  Carefully pour 1 cup of water into the hot metal pan to produce steam in the oven as this will make the outside nice and crusty.  Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Remove bread from the oven and cool completely before slicing.

My notes:

If you use some of the dough immediately after the first rising it will be very sticky and a little bit hard to work with.  I prefer using it the next day as it is designed to use right out of the refrigerator.

Grapefruit size pieces of dough will produce 4 - 1 pound loaves of bread.  For my family of 4, I use pieces the size of a large orange which will produce 5 small to medium size loaves.

Once you get the hang of this dough, you can shape it into a baguette, boule, batard, couronne, Pain d'Epi or any other shape you can imagine.

I don't have a pizza peel or a pizza stone so I let my bread rise on a cornmeal dusted piece of parchment paper which I just slide onto my hot cookie sheet to bake it.

The baked bread is best when made no more than 1 day in advance, and ideally just a few hours before serving.

If you seem unsure about any of my instructions, I highly recommend that you watch Zoe and Jeff's videos.  They are both helpful and fun to watch.  This really is an easy recipe.  After you make it once you can just about do it in your sleep.

Pain d'Epi using the Master Recipe



I used this same simple recipe, then shaped my bread to look like a sheaf of wheat, known as Pain d'Epi. Even though the finished product may look hard to achieve, it is really a snap and so much fun to do by following these easy steps.

Remove 1/4 to 1/5 of the dough from the refrigerator.  Shape it into a long skinny baguette shape. Starting a couple of inches from the end, clip dough with a pair of floured scissors at a sharp angle, leaving about a 1/4" base at the bottom.  Turn the clipped portion to one side.


Repeat the clipping and turning about every 2- 3 inches all the way to the end of the dough turning the clipped portions in opposite directions.



Sprinkle the prepared dough with flour to give it a rustic appearance after baking.


Bake bread at 450 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until it is golden brown and crusty on the outside.

Not only is Pain d'Epi pretty, but the best thing is that it also bakes into the perfect size pull-apart rolls for easy serving.  After removing it from the oven be patient and let the bread cool before cutting and serving for optimum results.  Cutting while warm will result in a dense doughy texture instead of the chewy crusty roll pictured above.

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