Staff of life
My New Year’s resolution for 2008 was to become an artisan bread baker in five minutes a day. But I was still on the waiting list to check out the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg, and I didn't want to break my resolution. With 1/12 of the year fading fast, I decided I could learn to bake bread in 2 hours a day to start.
With no real idea of where to begin, but a fairly good idea of what I like to eat, I thought, who better to guide me than a confiding Frenchman? Peter Mayle's Confessions of a French Baker: Breadmaking Secrets, Tips and Recipes shares actual recipes from Gerard Auzet, a famous Provençal baker with generations of baking genes to back up his skill. And even better than his recipes, there is a secret trick for Americans attempting to bake bread that tastes somewhat French without having access to special French ingredients. That trick is this: use equal parts King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour mixed with King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. This is supposedly an approximation of the flours used in authentic baguettes, boules and batards.
Then there is the matter of yeast. And spray bottles filled with water. And baking sheets and the kneading of dough and damp dish towels covering the dough while it rises (multiple times). And knocking on the bottom of the loaves to determine if they are done. So many details.
And after all that is finally sorted out, my library copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day arrives and I discover that artisan bread does not require kneading and damp dish towels and multiple risings. It just requires keeping the dough in the refrigerator for a week or so at a time, resulting in what is similar to sourdough. I love sourdough, so that is cool with me!
So now, thanks to the library, I have learned how to make artisan bread in five minutes a day (with a week or so to get the dough ready) and I am armed with recipes from a famous French baker. Happy 2008!