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News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Updated: 1 day 5 hours ago

Easy Sourdough Starter

February 6, 2017 - 12:06pm

The recipe that excites me most in our latest book, The The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, is the easy Sourdough Starter. I’m an admitted baking geek, so spending hours on a recipe can be exciting to me, but I know this concept sounds like work to some and just terrifies others. That’s why Jeff and I set out to write these books in the first place, being able to compel busy people to bake bread at home has been our mission. Now you can also create a sourdough starter; easily, without fear and without dedicating your whole day to the project. In fact, it only takes a few minutes a day to get your starter up and running. It really is that easy, but it takes several days to get your starter strong enough to actually use in a batch of bread. Until it is ready to go, you can always bake any of the other yeast filled recipes in our books.

All you need to make your sourdough starter is flour, water and a container to keep it in. Nothing special or fancy. Just make sure the container can hold at least two quarts of starter. You’ll see some Baking Bloopers below of what happens if your container is too small.

Once you have created your starter you can use it to bake beautiful loaves, with or without added yeast. The flavor is incredible and you will still be making a large batch of dough and storing it for up to a week, so you will do the work on one day for many loaves.

To make the starter:

Day 1: In a clean Jar or container* add 1/2 cup flour (unbleached white, whole wheat, rye, brown rice) and 1/2 cup water. That’s it.

*the jar needs to be big enough to hold 2 quarts and it needs to be open to the air, since you want to gather the natural yeasts from the flour and the environment. If you seal your jar, you won’t collect the yeast and/or the jar may actually explode. Yes, I said explode, see picture at the bottom of the post.

Stir the flour and water. Let this mixture sit for 2 days on the counter at room temperature.

Day 3: You should see bubbles forming in the starter. That’s the sign you are off to a great start. If you don’t see any bubbles on day 3, leave it for another day.

If you have bubbles, add 1/2 cup flour (you don’t have to stick to the same kind you used on the first day I like to make mine with a combination of whole wheat, rye and white flour) and 1/2 cup water. Str together and let sit for one day.

Day 4, 5, 6: Add 1/2 cup flour and water to the jar and stir on each of these days to build the strength of your starter. Let sit at room temperature after stirring.

By the 6th day your starter should seem mildly bubbly and it will have a pleasant sour smell building up. Add more flour and water so you have at least 3 1/2 cups of starter to use in a batch of dough.

Day 7: Once it is nice and strong, the starter will look foamy and

if your container isn’t big enough, the starter may try to escape. You’ll notice I never snap the jar shut.

Now you are ready to use the starter in any of our recipes.

Here is a basic rule to using sourdough in your recipes, but for WAY more information and specific recipes check out chapter 11 of The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. You will also find information about how to store your sourdough long term and how to reactivate it if you haven’t used it in many months.

To bake with your starter: Use about 3 cups of the activated sourdough starter for a full-batch of dough, which make 4 to 5 pounds of dough.  This means that you need to decrease the water in the recipes by 1 1/2 cups, and the flour by 1 1/2 cups. Adjust the water and flour to create a dough that looks and feels just like what you get with our yeast-based recipes. Depending on the strength of your sourdough starter it may take 2-12 hours for your dough to rise. This slow rise is part of the beauty of a natural lavain bread.

If you want to use your sourdough in combination with commercial yeast, you can use half as much starter (replacing just 3/4 cup flour and 3/4 cup water). Some people like the lighter sour flavor and it gives beginner bakers a sense of insurance to add the yeast.

Shape and bake as you would any of our recipes. This one is baked in a Round Proofing Basket.

Baking Bloopers:

This why you never want to use a screw top glass jar for your starter. If you have a really large glass jar that will fit the dough, be sure to poke a hole in the top of the lid so the gas from the yeast can escape.

 

Pretzel Rolls

January 24, 2017 - 6:50pm

It’s a New Year. Regardless of your political convictions and leanings, one thing we should all agree on is that pretzel rolls need to be on our 2017 agenda. Easier to make then pretzels (no shaping and twisting and forming!), these rolls taste amazing on their own, or sliced open and made into sandwiches. I can’t decide how I like them best, but I do know they are on my baking list every single week. (You can find regular pretzels and baked pretzels on our site as well!)

Pretzel Dough from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
3 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon Platinum Yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons Non-diastatic malt powder (or sugar)
6 1/2 cups (2 pounds) bread flour – (this will make a stronger dough and holds up to boiling the pretzels.)
Pretzel Salt

the boiling pot
8 quarts boiling water
1/4 cup baking soda (We don’t use lye, because it is a chemical that few people will have on hand and it is a bit risky to use. If you are committed to the authentic pretzel you really will want to find some lye and be very careful when using it, there are some pretty significant warnings on the label.)
1 tablespoon sugar

On baking day: Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cute off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Divide the dough into 8 smooth balls, then allow to rest for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Bring a large saucepan or stockpot full of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the baking soda and sugar. Drop the pretzel rolls into the simmering water one at a time, making sure they are not crowding one another. They need enough room to float without touching or they will be misshapen. Let them simmer for 1 minute and then flip them over with a slotted spoon to cook the other side for another 30 seconds.

Remove them from the water using the slotted spoon, and place on a clean kitchen towel that has been dusted with flour. This will absorb some of the excess water from the pretzel rolls. Then place them on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat as necessary, until all the rolls have been boiled.

Sprinkle with pretzel salt or coarse salt. Slash with a Lame or knife in a cross shape across the top. Bake with steam for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.

 

Easy Dinner Rolls

January 17, 2017 - 8:26am

Soft pull-apart buns are a classic dinner accompaniment. Known for their tender texture and delicious taste, they are a favorite for both adults and children alike. The whole wheat version of our recipe found in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day gives you a slightly healthier spin without compromising the great, buttery taste. While they are easy enough to make any night of the week, these dinner rolls can also find their way to your entertaining table.

Easy Dinner Rolls
4 cups white whole wheat flour (we use the white whole wheat for its lighter color and flavor)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons Red Star Platinum Yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
2 1/4 cups lukewarm water
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup honey
5 large eggs
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water) for brushing on the top of loaf

Mixing and storing the dough: Whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten in a5 -quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food storage container.

Combine the liquid ingredients and mix the wet with the dry ingredients using a spoon, a 14-cup food processor or a heavy duty stand mixer with paddle. The dough will be loose, but will firm up with chilled. Cover (not airtight) and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses, approximately 2 hours. Refrigerate it for at least 2 hours before using. The dough can be stored and used over the next 5 days.

On baking day: Prepare a 9-inch cake pan by generously coating with butter.
Take a 1 ½-pound piece of dough out of your bucket and divide it into 8 equal pieces.

Roll into small balls. They should be about the size of small plums or golf balls.

Place the dough into the prepared pan.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow the buns to rest about 40-60 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Paint the tops of the buns lightly with egg wash using a pastry brush. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on the size. They should be golden brown. Immediately brush the top with butter to keep the crust soft. Allow to cool slightly and serve.

Raisin Walnut Bread (Baked in an Emile Henry Bread Baker with Red Star Platinum Yeast)

January 7, 2017 - 12:18pm

I have to admit when Emile Henry asked if I wanted to try this new covered loaf pan, I was a bit skeptical about the claims they were making. It’s a gorgeous loaf pan, but would it really bake a bread with a perfectly crisp, shiny crust on the top and bottom, just because of the holes in the lid and on the bottom of the ceramic baking vessel? Well, I’m here to say I was wrong to judge without trying, again. Just as I was wrong about the crock pot baking great bread, this loaf pan really does bake a fantastic loaf. The crust is thin and golden brown, without having to add steam or remove the cover during baking. It’s all about the holes! You can see the same loaf baked in a regular loaf pan at the bottom of the post and see for yourself just how well it works.

I used Red Star Platinum yeast to mix up this raisin walnut bread dough, and I loved the results with this loaf.


Raisin Walnut Bread:

3 cups lukewarm water

1 tablespoon Red Star Platinum Yeast 

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

1 cup whole wheat flour

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (Gold Medal or the like. If you use King Arthur or other high protein flours, you may need to add up to a 1/4 cup more water)

1 cup raisins

1 cup walnuts

2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a  6-Quart Round Storage Container add the water, yeast, salt, flours

raisins

walnuts and cinnamon.

Mix with a Danish Dough Whisk, a wooden spoon or a stand mixer.

Let the dough rise for 2 hours and then you can use it right away or it can be stored for about 7 days.

Pull out a 2-pound piece of dough, about half the dough in the bucket.

Quickly shape it into a smooth oval.

Generously grease and flour the base of the bread baker.

Place the dough into Bread Loaf Baker.

Cover and let rest for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This will depend on what else you have going on and how chilly your kitchen is.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Uncover the loaf and use a Pastry Brush to paint with water.

Because this baker has a lid it traps the internal moisture of the dough, almost like a Dutch Oven, to create a shiny, crisp crust. Since it has the small holes, the crust will also color nicely during the baking without having to remove the cover.

Bake for about 45 minutes. If you open the lid and it is not yet golden brown, let it bake another 5 minutes.

Let the bread cool in the baker for 5 minutes

Turn the loaf out of the pan after 5 minutes and then let cool completely.

After you’ve enjoyed some of your bread you can slip it back into the baker to store it on the counter.

Since the cover has holes the loaf won’t get soggy, but it is protected enough to keep the bread from staling as quickly. It also happens to keep nosey puppies from the counter.

Here is the loaf baked in a regular loaf pan. You can see that the crust is pale and dull looking in comparison. It was still as tasty, but without the trapped steam the loaf just wasn’t as appealing. You’d have to add steam to the oven if you were to bake it in this style pan.

Lesaffre Yeast Corp. (Red Star) provided samples of yeast for recipe testing, and sponsors BreadIn5’s website and other promotional activities