Most of my recent bread-making has been using the "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" method (or "ABin5"). It sounds amazing, doesn't it? No bread machine, no kneading, minimal effort and time, and yet a homemade loaf of bread?!?
Well, it does take more than five minutes to produce a loaf, but that's probably a fairly accurate estimation of the time that you need to actually *do* anything, especially if you get into the habit of keeping a batch of dough on the go. There's certainly a lot less work than traditional bread-making, and the results are delicious. It's also interesting to see that the rules of bread-making can be so thoroughly broken, and yet still result in a tasty loaf of bread.
Here's how it works...
- Chuck in a large bowl: 3 cups lukewarm water, 2 sachets fast-action yeast, 1 tbsp salt, & 6.5 cups plain flour (yes, plain, not bread flour!).
- Mix until combined.
- Cover loosely (I have an attractive Home&Bargain shower cap specifically for this purpose!)
- Let it rest at room temperature for 2 hours .
- Shove in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Sprinkle the surface of the bowl of dough with flour. Take out some dough (the full quantity makes 4 small loaves. Making the loaves too big means they collapse, so keep them small).
- With flour-covered hands, gently form the dough into a ball, lightly rotating it in your hands and stretching the surface to the bottom (this takes about 30 seconds). Do not knead it or squish any air out! The bottom of the loaf may seem to be a collection of bunched ends, but that sorts itself out.*
- Place it on a floured baking sheet and rest the loaf for about 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to max (220C-ish) 20 minutes before baking.
- Dust the top of the loaf with flour, and slash across the top of it with a serrated knife.
- Put the baking sheet with loaf into the oven, and pour 1 cup of hot water into a grill pan beneath it.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. (Using wet dough means that the interior doesn't dry out despite a dark crust).
- When you remove it from the oven, the loaf crackles and 'sings'. Cool on a wire rack.
I usually make a half-quantity, which is enough for two small loaves. I then bake both loaves at once, rather than having a fridge full of dough and doing the whole shaping-and-resting-and-baking process for just one loaf (...which will probably be eaten by my family in less time than takes to say "artisan bread in five minutes a day"). The crust seems to keep the loaf fresh for longer than other homemade breads, and it freezes well too.
The book has a huge number of variations on this basic bread recipe. I've mostly stuck to this basic 'boule', but have also used this method to make great pizza and brioche.
*edited to add this youtube clip to show what I'm struggling to describe! He shapes the loaf at 5 minutes.