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If I was stranded on a desert island and I could only choose 1 item of food to eat, hands down it would be a crusty loaf of French bread. My love affair with bread goes way back to when I was a young kid watching my grandmother steam Chinese buns filled with savoury BBQ’d pork. Since then I have loved all varieties of bread but it was only recently that I got over the fear of making my own bread without a machine. It was much easier than I ever thought and with the recent trend of no knead artisan bread recipes, it is an absolute cinch. The craze really took off with Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread recipe that appeared in the New York Times. Essentially, Lahey explained that really great artisan bread relies on well developed gluten. Historically kneading the bread and punching it down after rises was the go to method to develop gluten. However he discovered that time also allows gluten to develop, so by leaving bread dough to rise overnight for approximately 18hrs, the gluten is fully developed without kneading. Personally, I also love this method because it allows for a wetter dough since you don’t need flour to prevent sticking to surfaces when kneading. A wetter dough means a chewier bread with lots of irregular holes, otherwise knowns as a ‘crumb’. The larger the crumb the better the bread, and the wetter the dough the more crumb that develops.
This recipe takes it one step further from the Lahey method by refrigerating a large batch of dough in which you would cut off a piece for baking. Thus the 5 minute bread, although that is a misnomer as it is 5 minutes of work on your part but you still need 30 minutes to bake. The master dough can be left in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, but I have never had a batch last that long! The recipe is adapted from the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day written by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.
The bread dough can be used in a variety of ways from a classic French boule (ball) to a pizza crust. Using a whole wheat or multigrain flour also works.
You will need:
A large bowl or plastic container (5 quarts or larger), preferably with resealable lid
6.5 cups flour (of your choice)
3 cups water, approx 100 degrees fahrenheit
1.5 tbsp yeast
1.5 tbsp sea salt
I found this container at a hardware store meant to store pet food. I liked the rectangular shape as it fits nicely in the fridge. As you can see I had a poor attempt at drilling holes in the lid, but it allows air to escape so job is done.
3. Close the lid or cover with plastic wrap. If you did not drill holes into the lid, lift the lid or plastic wrap in the corner to let gas escape.
5. Once it has risen, the dough can be used right away. Otherwise, place in refrigerator until ready to use.
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. My preferred method of baking French boule with a nice crispy crust is with a dutch oven with the lid on. If you do not have one or do not wish to use one, you can use a pizza stone or cookie sheet. If using a dutch oven, place the pot into the oven with the lid on during pre-heat. If using a dutch oven, prepare a tea towel liberally dusted with flour.
3. Remove dough from fridge. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough. With your hands or a dough cutter, scoop out a grapefruit sized portion.
4. With your hands liberally floured, gently roll the dough into a ball shape and with your fingers tuck the edges under. Place the boule on the tea towel or pizza stone and let rest until the oven is heated. With a serrated knife, make a few slashes on the top to help bread expand.
5. Once the oven is ready, place the boule in and bake for 30 minutes. If using a dutch oven, transfer boule to the dutch oven and cover with lid.
6. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. You will know it is ready when your loaf starts to whistle or crackle when you take it out of the oven and the crust makes contact with the air.