JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Daily bread 3

Another five minutes' work this morning, and there's fragrant fresh bread for lunch. Not a smooth round ball, because I'm cack-handed. But who cares, when it's gone in minutes? This is a good daily loaf, achieved with very little effort (see previous posts for details).

It takes a little more salt than I usually use in my bread, but that is both to preserve the dough in the fridge and to keep fermentation in check (a couple of months ago I posted at length about the role of salt in bread dough).

If you like, you can replace some of the white flour with wholemeal, but not too much, or you'll lose the lightness.

This type of baking originated in the US: Jim Lahey's no-knead bread swept the blogosphere a couple of years ago; around the same time Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois published Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Peter Reinhart is currently testing recipes for a second book on the subject. These notes are based on a recipe in Hertzberg and Francois's book, which I have adapted for a European kitchen.* Americans cook and bake using cup measures, which are in some ways very freeing. But with bread, I like to know what I'm doing so that I can do it again, and that means weighing. I use a very cheap scale, the sort you can re-set to zero between ingredients. Perfect for weighing water, yeast, salt and flour into a box - no washing up. And if you like the taste of sourdough, no need to wash it up between batches.

Dough to make four loaves over a fortnight

5 litre food-grade plastic box

650ml cups of water
15g tablespoons dried yeast
20g tablespoons Maldon salt
780g cups strong white flour
cornmeal / flour for dusting

  • Weigh the water into your box. Add yeast and salt, then the flour. Mix with a spoon until there are no more lumps of flour. You should have a shaggy mess. Cover the box loosely, and leave for 2-5 hours. I use water straight from the tap and leave for four or five hours; if you use water warmed to no hotter than blood heat, this stage could take as little as 2-3 hours.
  • When the dough is smooth (see yesterday's photo if in doubt), put it in the fridge. You could use it straight away, but after 2-3 hours, it will be easier to handle (and this is a material consideration).
  • When you are ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour over the dough, then pull off roughly a quarter (do it by eye). You will probably have to cut it with a bread knife, and you should flour this first. Stretch the dough, pulling it out as if you were playing an accordion. Then, on a floured board, tuck the ends underneath four times, giving a quarter turn each time. This will give you a boule (the smoothness of which will be related to how well you played your accordion). Put this on a floured peel - just a flat metal baking sheet in the absence of anything fancier. Leave it to rest for half an hour.
  • Put a stone in the oven and switch it on to very hot: 220C - more, if you can. Flick the dough** from the peel onto the stone***, shut the door, then add a low baking tin with a little water into the oven. Half an hour. You might finish it upside down if it's not quite ready when you check. Cool it on a rack.
The rest of the dough will keep for a couple of weeks, covered loosely, in your fridge.


* These notes should be enough for an experienced baker to follow. If you're having difficulty, email me and I'll try to help out. Better still, buy the book, as it's full of wonderful variations on the basic doughs. But if you're European, you'll also need a set of US measuring cups.

**This is tricky, and I suspect there are demos on YouTube. But however mis-shapen your loaf is when you deposit it onto the stone, it will rise magnificently in the oven. And it will still taste good. (This dough is first cousin to the NY Times loaf that hit the blogosphere a couple of years ago, and would therefore, I suppose, bake well in a hot covered Le Creuset pan instead of free-form on a stone.)

***You can spend a lot of money on this, or you can buy a paving slab at the builders' merchant.

Related posts

Daily bread
Daily bread 2

Six seed rolls
Bread knots - another simple way to make beautiful and delicious rolls, using this dough, or your default dough

Yeast starter for bread - and the bread
make your own sourdough starter

No-knead bread the famous NY Times recipe
Speeded-up no-knead bread and a different take on it

Yoghurt bread fabulous, easy, TRY IT
Quick oat loaf
Spelt bread - it's getting easier to buy this highly-flavoured flour

Anti-oxidant tea bread - I made this for my husband for a pre-surgery boost - delicious, too!

Yeast conversion - fresh/dried/quick

Things to do with stale or leftover bread

Herb stuffing for roast chicken
Grilled trout with rosemary stuffing
Baked scallops
Anchovy toasts


Joanna said...

SO funny ... I'd just finished posting this, went to check my feedreader, and found that Zoe had just posted about using a Le Creuset pot (or what Americans call a Dutch oven) to bake her dough-that-keeps-in-the-fridge ... here's the link:


Trish said...

Wow...I am impressed!

Joanna said...

Trish, it's very easy ... and I've now realised that a lot of the reason my loaf doesn't look so good is because I didn't slash it before baking ... that would have let it rise more evenly ...


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

and who can argue with five minutes in the morning and fresh bread for lunch!! Excellent Joanna!

Sonya said...

Hi there Joanna,
I am a tragic self-appointed bread-making failure who gave it all up some years ago as an albeit funny, bad family joke! HOWEVER, I am now prepared to give it another spin, with your wonderful, gentle explanation of this method. I'll let you know how it goes :o)

Ed Bruske said...

lovely looking bread, Joanna

elspeth said...

Dear Joanna
Thank you for your lovely comment on my full moon post, and for your great post on breadmaking. I always swore I would bake bread on moving here full time and have yet to do it! I really love sour dough - and will give it all a try...
Am looking forward to catching up with your lovely blog - always gives me such inspiration in the kitchen!
x Elspeth

Bella Baita View said...

Gorgeous bread and excellent instructions. I don't stop by enough, must remedy that.

Angela said...

I've had a go and followed your instructions. Posted the photos on my blog. The texture doesn't look as good as yours!! Thanks for a great recipe.

Joanna said...

Angela yours is a MUCH better shape than mine ... I've saved a little of the dough to put in my next batch of machine bread


Sophie said...

I've found that bread baking does require quite a bit of precision, it's hard work making bread! This came out lovely, great texture!

Joanna said...

So glad that this was a success for you Sophie ... I love it


Olive Oyl said...

Hi Joanna, I know I'm late to the party but, how GREAT is this bread? Think there's going to be a plastic box in the fridge from now on. Thanks for another lovely recipe.

Joanna said...

Thanks for kind words Olive ... I'm overdue making this, so thanks too for a reminder :)