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Can you really make great bread in five minutes a day?

07 Mar

I’m working my way through the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, where the idea is that you make a big batch of dough, place it in the refrigerator, and then use chunks over the next couple of weeks. But is it really possible to make bread that (a) doesn’t need to be kneaded, (b) only takes five minutes of active work to make, and (c), tastes just as good as bread that takes hours and hours to make (like the breads in Reinhart’s “Crust and Crumb”)?

I was ready to find out. So, I’ve made a big, fat batch of dough that is now resting in the refrigerator. It’s bubbly and thriving, just like a sourdough starter. I’ve made two breads thus far, experimenting with resting times and baking times. Because the dough is so wet, relatively to other doughs, this dough holds up well in the refrigerator without drying out.

So let’s find out what happened:

The first bread was a little dense. The crust was gorgeous, crackly and crispy, but the inside was slightly underbaked and doughy. The bread rose much less than others I had made in the past. Perhaps the lack of kneading allows for shorter gluten strands to form?

The second bread was much better. Instead of letting it rise only 40 minutes, I let it rise closer to an hour or so. It rose more and was significantly less dense than the first bread. Plus, I used a thermometer to check the final temperature of the bread. This isn’t mentioned in the book, but it’s a technique I learned in “Crust and Crumb.” If the bread is still measuring under 180 degrees F, it’s underbaked. With a sourdough, you ideally want the temperature to reach up to 205 degrees inside. Without the thermometer, the second bread would have been raw inside. The crust looked crisp and crackly, but the dense inside (I’ve just found these are not super fluffy breads) would have still been doughy.

So it has been an interesting experiment so far, but I’m not quite convinced that these breads match up completely to breads that take many loving hours to make. They are certainly convenient, and I will continue to make breads using the book’s method for days when we’re out of bread and I want something quick and easy, but there’s nothing like a real sourdough made using a starter.

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Posted by on March 7, 2009 in Breads

 

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