The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Artisan Bread - A Follow Up

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Two weeks ago when I wrote the blog entry ARTISAN BREAD IN 5 MINUTES A DAY I had only just begun to use this book. I am back to report that it is just too good, not too good to be true. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to reach into the fridge, pull out a ball of dough and in about 2 minutes you have a loaf of bread started. About two hours later, after a rise, a bake and a cool down your are cutting into fresh baked bread as good as any I’ve tried. This process really works well. You make a particular “master dough recipe” which can be stored for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. On baking day you cut off a piece of the dough and make the bread. Many recipes have variations for the types of bread you can make from the master dough recipe. The same loaf you get a baguette from, can make a delicious pizza crust from. In fact let me say not just delicious, it was the best pizza crust I’ve ever made or tasted. I’ve now made this bread for several people who are long time bakers themselves and they were blown away when they tasted the bread. They were blown away even further when I told them the small amount of work involved to make the bread. If you are interested in the process refer to the blog entry ARTISAN BREAD IN 5 MINUTES A DAY.

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Here I just want to do a followup on what has happened since my first initial glowing report. If anything I am even more enthused today than I was two weeks ago. In fact two weeks ago there was no way I was going to get a pizza stone, which is said to improve the crispy crust on some of the breads. A little later this morning I am off to pick up the pizza stone I ordered. Since my initial two loaves of “Crusty White Bread” I have mage a baguette from the same master recipe. Even without the pizza stone, it had a wonderfully crispy crust. Next I made a European Peasant Bread master recipe which adds some rye flour and whole wheat flour to the all-purpose flour. From that I made two loaves of a baguette style bread with poppy seeds and made a pizza crust. For the last two baguettes, I used a perforated baguette pan I had on hand. It helped the bread hold it’s shape better than my first baguette and it helped give it a most wonderful crackling crust. These two loaves were amazing and I couldn’t believe that I had made it and that it was that easy. A few days later the pizza crust from this master recipe was the best pizza crust I’ve ever had. I said it before, but it bears repeating, there is something wonderful about being able to reach into the refrigerator and grab some dough and you are off and running with next to no effort.

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The “Basic Boulle” starter dough made both the crusty white bread (Left) & my first attempt at a baguette (Right). While it wasn’t the classic shape, it ate just fine.

Now just so you know, all is not perfect. There have been some problems, but I have gotten results that were always excellent to taste, if not to look at. The wet dough you work with in these recipes can be a bit of a pain to handle. It doesn’t want to hold it’s shape and shrinks and springs back a bit. The first free form baguette I made was not necessarily the textbook shape. I had trouble shaping it, and then it lost it’s shape during the rise. I’ve since watched a video on the author’s web site showing how to shape that type of loaf which solved the one problem. The baguette pan which I didn’t use that first time, helps the dough hold it’s shape. I am also having trouble with the slashing of the top of the bread. Depending on the recipe, they have you dust the top of the loaf with flour or brush it with water prior to slashing. This is to help the knife to glide through the bread while slashing the top to control where the cracking occurs. My knife still sticks and I must go through it several times. The last difficulty was using this wet dough for a pizza crust. Despite liberal coatings of flour on my hands, the rolling pin and my work surface, the dough stuck to everything. It took me three attempts before I got a passable crust shape. This I really must work on because this dough made the best pizza crust I’ve ever had. While it may sound like these are a lot of problems, they are purely visual and the bread has always been excellent if not picture perfect visually. I’d be more worried if the taste wasn’t there. These appearance items are easily fixed.

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The “European Peasant Bread” starter dough was used to make these baguettes. The perforated baguette pan helped these loaves hold it’s shape while rising and helped give it a crispy crust on the bottom.

 

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The “European Peasant” starter dough also made the best pizza crust I’ve ever had. You reach into your starter dough pail and cut off a 1-pound (0.5 Kg) piece. You roll give it a quick rest & then roll it out. I will need to learn how to handle this wet dough better, as it took 3 attempts before I got a usable crust. The resulting pizza was worth the work.


Two weeks later I am even more enthused about this cookbook and all of the great places it is going to take me. Whipping up some fresh bread at a moments notice will always be an option and it will usually be easier than a trip to the store. Once again the name of the book is: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois.


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