This post is really more of a pitch for a new favorite cookbook than it is a recipe. But I'll include a recipe below.
A few months ago our friends Steve and Laura stopped by late one evening. They brought with them the most stunning loaf of bread. They related how some friends had taught them to make the bread using the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
Being the frugal and conservative soul that I am, I found the book at the library and tried it out. It was instant love. Our family loves homemade bread, and we have long dreamed of making the kind of bread you find in Italian bakeries. This book proved just the ticket.
I've settled into a couple of favorite recipes, although I'm sure I'll eventually try others. For the most part, this book lives up to its title: you can mix up the bread, let it raise for a couple of hours, and then either bake it immediately or store it in the fridge for use a few days later. Or, since the recipe makes a large quantity even by our family's standards, you can do both. I often make an initial batch on Sunday and then bake the rest later in the week. Here's what the pre-baked product looks like:
And yes, having a pizza peel and a pizza stone really helps.
To be clear, I ordered the book through Amazon not long after it was due at the library. The recipe below is for peasant bread. In the book it's listed as roasted garlic potato bread; I made it with roasted garlic the first time, but wasn't awed by the results. Now I make it without and (gasp!) use instant potatoes.
Roasted Garlic Potato Bread
From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
By Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup mashed potato
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I confess that I usually use the pure white stuff)
Cornmeal for the pizza peel
1. Mix the yeast, salt, sugar and mashed potatoes with the water in a 5-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
2. Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon or a 14-cup capacity food processor with dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with dough hook). If you're not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses or flattens on top, approximately 2 hours.
4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 7 days.
5. On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour adn quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 1 hour (or just 40 minutes if you're using fresh, un-refrigerated dough).
6. Twenty minutes before baking time, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone placed on the middle rack of the oven. Place a broiler tray for water on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread.
7. Sprinkle the loaf liberally with flour and slash a cross, "scallop," or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife. Leave the flour in place for baking; tap some of it off before eating.
8. Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until deeply brown and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time.