Tuesday, March 29, 2011

5 Minute Artisan Bread - The French Boule

I am one of those people who just can't make bread, and because I can't do it, I am completely fascinated by it.  The process, the yeast, the flour, the shaping, the baking, the heady aroma, that first butter-laden bite.  All of this just sucks me in.  As a consequence I find myself drawn to the process, to the aisle of bread cookbooks at the local bookstore (many of which sit, dusty, on my shelves), and reading books of fiction that feature subplots on baking such as Barbara O'Neal's How to Bake A Perfect Life and Judith Hendrick's wonderful Bread Alone.  I was so captivated by the latter, that midway through the book I had to set it down, run to the kitchen, and bake a baguette using the recipe from the book.  How could I fail?

It was beautiful!  A gorgeous loaf  that smelled absolutely wonderful.  But...the crust was impenetrable even, I imagine, by shark teeth, the spongy interior would have easily removed permanent crowns and the most secure of fillings with ease, and it was so heavy I feared dropping it lest someone nearby fall victim to a piece of bread shrapnel.

Clearly, I had to accept that this was just one talent that I lacked.  Some people have the bread baking gene and some don't and, clearly (my family was quick to remind me) I don't.  Once I did check out the book by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking, from the local library, but my fear caused me to return it unread. 

What made me attempt it again is anybody's guess, but having stumbled upon the recipe for the simplest of the 5-minute breads, the classic French boule, I decided to give it a try. First thing this morning I put the ingredients together in a big metal mixing bowl wherein I promptly ignored it as I went on about my day.  Forgot about it actually, until hours later when it was puffing up beyond the sides of the bowl and, in a panic, I stuffed it into the back of the refrigerator.

An hour or so before dinner while I was making Sour Cream  Snickerdoodles (a future blog post, stay tuned) I decided to pull off a chunk of the dough, shape it and pop it into the oven.  It would give me a chance to use the pizza stone and peel that I'd gotten for Christmas three years ago.

The little ball of dough looked a bit sad on that big peel, but I reminded myself that it was supposed to be a small loaf, so tossed on some flour, made three cuts in the top, as directed, and carefully slid it onto the hot stone in the oven.

For the next 30 minutes I paced.  I dare not open the oven door to get a peak for fear of the steam I'd created by pouring a cup of water into a broiler pan beneath the stone would escape.  When the timer went off I opened up the oven and peered inside.  I was met with a blast of heavenly scented steam from the baking bread that immediately transported me to Paris.  My little loaf had baked up beautifully with an aroma that begged for a bite. It was torture waiting long enough for it to cool so I could dive right in.
When the time came, I cut the end off, slathered on some butter and took a taste.  I felt quite chuffed that I got a knife through it not to mention that the inside had a beautiful, non-doughy texture.  Biting into the piece revealed a perfect loaf.  A chewy and crusty exterior, with a light interior.  I had done it!  I handed the piece to my husband and urged him to take a bite.  He chewed thoughtfully and looked at me and said,  "We'll never have to buy bread again."

Neither will you.

The recipe can be found in various places, including the book, that I am off to buy once I post this entry, but for ease and expedience, you can also find it here.  

How to Bake a Perfect Life: A NovelArtisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home BakingBread Alone: A Novel
This post is linked to:
Tuesday Night Supper Club
Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays


Anonymous said...

Hi.I found your blog tru blog hop.. I would love to make my own bread too..My name is Marelie and O'm your new follower.

Anonymous said...

Your bread looks wonderful. I love making bread, my mamie made it all the time when I grew up.
p.s. My mamie is french and she would say your bread looks wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post! I am going to try this, just like you did in the hopes that I, too, can make a great bread!