The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie trying to get great bread on a weekday schedule

scientistbaker's picture

Newbie trying to get great bread on a weekday schedule

I don't have Peter Reinhart's "Artisan Breads Every Day", but I do have this "The Bread Baker's Apprentice". To do it, I modified the recipe for French Bread combined with techniques from the Cook's Illustrated "(Almost) No Knead" recipe and Reinhart's pain a l'ancienne.

It's still a work in progress, and I'd love to have suggestions from anyone who has tried dealing with long ferments like this.

The night before: 5 minutes of mixing, 1 hour of waiting, 1 minute of kneading
That morning: 1 minute of kneading
When you get home:

5 minutes shaping
20 minutes rising
20 - 25 minutes baking
10+ minutes cooling
60 minutes from getting home to fresh bread

5 oz. (~1 to 1.5 cups depending on how you measure it out) King Arthur Bread (high gluten) flour
5 oz. King Arthur All Purpose flour (the mix of flours makes for more flavorful bread)
3/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast (or 1/2 tsp of instant yeast)
3/4 tsp Salt
6.5 to 7 oz (about 3 Tbs shy of a cup) of water

The night before: mix dry ingredients, then add water. Let sit to autolyse for 1 hour. Knead just a few times (5-10 stretch-and-folds, ~1 minute). Spray oil into a fresh bowl, toss in the dough and spray more oil over the top. Cover and refrigerate.

When you wake up: Take out the dough (it should have risen in the fridge). Knead the cold dough for another minute. Spray more oil in a bowl, add the dough, spray oil over it, cover and leave sitting on the counter.
While you're at work: for 8-10 hours the dough will come to room temp and ferment.

When you get home: By now, your dough should be HUGE, that's ok. Take it out of the bowl and gently shape into a batard or demi-baguette (a full-sized baguette will lose too much gas and will have to sit longer to re-rise before it can go in the oven). You want to minimize the shaping work at this point: it will lose a lot of gas no matter what you do, but you should try to retain as much as possible. Put the loaf on parchment paper and put it somewhere warm (e.g. on top of the fridge) for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile: Put a broiling pan in the bottom rack in the oven, center the other rack and put a baking stone on it (if you don't have a baking stone, you can use a non-preheated cookie sheet turned upside-down). Heat 2 cups of water in a sauce pan. Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees F.

After the loaf has sat for 20 minutes, slit the loaf (don't apply too much pressure, the last thing you want is to squish it), and transfer dough on parchment to the oven. Put the hot water into the broiling pan below and put a loose tent of aluminum foil over the bread. Leave the oven at 500 and bake for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, uncover, remove the broiling pan, rotate the loaf 180 degrees, and set the oven to 450. Let bake another 10-15 minutes: until the center registers 205 to 210 degrees and the crust is nicely browned.
By now, it's been 50 minutes since you got home and your bread is done. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. So 1 hour after you get home, you have delicious bread.

Give it a try, let me know how it works for you.  Also if anyone has suggestions, please let me know.

DJ Brasier

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, DJ.

Welcome to TFL!

I share your search for recipes that are doable on work day evenings, and there are some that make outstanding bread. However, my first reaction to your recipe is you've maximized speed at the sacrifice of everything else. You're method has been to use a lot of yeast and to eat the bread before it has fully cooled. 

How would it work for you to get much better bread not until 2 hours after you get home? If that's attractive, consider these formulas:

Pierre Nury’s Rustic Light Rye - Leader

Anis Bouabsa's baguettes

Another option, at least for Monday night, would be to make a bread that is cold retarded after shaping and can be baked right out of the fridge.

Happy baking!


Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

I work a full 40-hour week and couldn't bake any of the breads I really want to without using overnight refrigeration.  I almost always use preferments, which means I usually have to elongate my breadbaking into a three-day schedule, with levain refreshment one day, bulk fermentation the next, and baking on the third day.  I find that even if the recipe doesn't call for it, cold retardation is almost always doable at any stage of the process.