A few weeks ago I was intrigued by this posting from Snack Girl: easy, homemade yeast bread. For a while now I've wanted to bake with yeast. I don't know why it seems so interesting; I've made non-rising sweet breads plenty of times (pumpkin, zucchini, banana, etc), but the idea of getting the bread to rise sounds kind of magical. Once before I made whole wheat rolls with yeast; they turned out okay. I just didn't know where the best spot was to let them rise, since my house is generally colder than "room temperature" in the winter. (I put them above the satellite dish receiver, but I mixed them up wrong anyway, so I scrapped the first batch.) But this book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, claimed that it can be easy to bake bread like you find in bakeries! I was in. But knowing how my hobbies usually burn out quickly, I didn't want to invest too much dough (haha, baking pun) into this before I am sure I will stick with it. There were a few pieces of "equipment" I needed before starting out. I got a round baking stone from Jen (it was her mom's) and borrowed a pizza peel from a coworker who had also done the artisan bread thing in the past. Then I just had to buy an oven thermometer (to make sure the temperature my oven said it was at was accurate) and a 5-quart container to store the dough. Both I found at Target.
Supplies: cookbook (borrowed from the library), yeast, water, kosher salt, and unbleached all-purpose flour. and my container (it's actually a plastic shoe box!).
First step: put the yeast and salt in the container and add with lukewarm water.
2: add the flour, mix with a wooden spoon.
all mixed up. then, let it rise with the lid on for 2 or more hours. Refrigerate overnight (or you can use it right away, but the dough is easier to use when it's cold).
The next morning: cornstarch on the pizza peel and the cold, risen dough. you flour the top of the dough, then grab a big blob (they say about a pound, but i didn't weigh it.). add more flour and shape/rotate it into a ball. (I found this video very handy for figuring out this technique. It shows the whole process.) Let it sit on the peel for 40 minutes to rise. (I didn't think it looked much bigger after the 40.)
20 mins before baking, set the oven to 450F. after the 20 mins, the oven therm didn't say it was 450 in there (even though the over said the preheat was done). so i cranked up the temp to 500 to get it hotter. but then it was over 450, so i tried to cool it down. the pizza stone started smoking, and it got a bit foggy in my house. I opened a window. (the book says to put the bread in the oven after 20 mins, even though your thermometer won't read 450 yet. oh. wish I had realized that earlier...)
Anyway, after rising, dust with flower and cut a cross into the top with a bread knife. Slide the loaf from the peel onto the stone in the oven. You also need a broiler pan above the bread that you put 1 cup of hot water into right before you shut the oven door. I guess the steam is needed to achieve the crispy crust.
30 minutes later, voila! Bread! The book recommends letting it cool completely before eating, but that's not possible for me. It probably sat for 30 mins when I cut into it, still steamy in the middle.
Very delicious and doughy, but not undercooked! It must be easy if I can do it! I still have dough for 3 more loaves (the basic recipe is written to make 4 loaves), but you can shape it into different things; I'm going to try a baguette and pizza crust (both I will hopefully serve at my Oscar party next weekend). The book has recipes for a lot of other kinds of bread, and things to do with the bread (sandwiches, pizza, jams, etc). But I have to take the book back to the library in a week, so I will either have to have a crazy week of baking, or buy it! my kitchen shelves are already filled to the max though... but the authors have a blog with some recipes, yay! Also I think it's really cool that they live in the Twin Cities, so maybe i can meet them some day!