by Shauna Lawyer Struby
I have a confession – I’ve never been very good at making yeasty-type bread. Try as I might, bread-making efforts in my 30-plus years of cooking have resulted in heavy loaves that more closely resemble bricks. I’ve suffered great guilt about my lack of yeasty prowess, and over the last few years, as sustainability has turned our minds to learning how to do things for ourselves again, or ‘reskilling’ as it is sometimes called, I’ve dreaded the day when the next thing to do on my self-sufficiency to-do list would be learning to make bread.
Praise to the Goddess of Yeasty Muses, fortunately for me a couple of bright folk, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, of Minneapolis, found a way to make bread that makes my bread-making deficiency moot. For about the past three weeks I’ve been using their Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method (also featured in the December 2008/January 2009 issue of Mother Earth News magazine). As Hertzberg & Francois note, the secret to their method is amazingly simple. Here’s what Hertzberg says about it in the Mother Earth News article:
“It all came down to one fortuitous discovery: Pre-mixed, pre-risen, high-moisture dough keeps well in the refrigerator.”
As a result of their discovery, I am happy to report I can now make beautiful, crusty loaves of bread that look like they belong on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine. Beyond the looks, the bread is moist on the inside and has that delicious multi-dimensional flavor so prized in bread-making. As an added bonus, the dough which is mixed and stored ahead of the baking process, can be used to quickly make pizza crust and a whole host of other delectable meals, breads and pastry delights, making it a great kitchen aid for busy folk with little time for meal prep.
So far I’ve only experimented with the bread and pizza, and at every holiday outing where I lugged either item, both brought rave reviews. But here’s the real icing on the cake (uh, bread) – the method’s authors estimate the cost is about $0.50 per loaf.
The method is easy, simple and really does take very little time. There’s no kneading or punching. The five minutes a day refers to the actual time you’re actively involved with the dough shaping and getting it ready to bake. The bread is easily made with equipment any kitchen has on hand, although I did purchase a food-grade container to keep my pre-mixed dough in the refrigerator, and my guess is the recommended baking stone and pizza peel would take the final product to the next level. The article in Mother Earth News gives you the basic recipe and process but there’s also a book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking, which goes into much greater detail with tips and techniques, and a bundle of recipes for peasant loaves, flatbreads and pizzas, and enriched breads and pastries.
To add some sustainability to this process, last week I took organic hard red winter wheat berries I purchased from GOOrganic Whole Wheat through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative and ground the berries in our coffee grinder using the espresso setting which rendered a fine wheat flour. I doubt this will work for grinding large quantities of flour long-term, but until I settle on a wheat mill, it will do.
And about the Little Red Hen – I think she was on to something. Eating this bread is not only a pleasure-filled tasting sensation, but it brings a dimension of wholeness, comfort and security to our lives. Comfort in the aroma and taste of baking bread, wholeness and security in knowing our bread is made from healthy ingredients. Here’s to finding your own inner Little Red Hen.