Charlie recently came to the conclusion that he no longer wants to eat store-bought bread. He’s very grain-centric in his food preferences, so bread is a big deal for him.
A friend of ours graciously bought us a fancy bread maker for a wedding present, and I’ve made bread it in it many times. I’ve kind of fallen out of the habit, though, and Charlie has been missing homemade hearty bread. This surprises me a little bit because I’ve never been especially enamored with my bread maker bread, a) because I never seem to have all the ingredients for the multi-grain + whole wheat bread and have made several substitutions, which means it’s not going to come out quite as they intended, b) because in so doing I have tended to overuse flax seeds to the point of excess, and c) because even when I did my best to follow the 100% whole wheat bread recipe exactly as written, it was dry, bland and terrible. So, the bread maker bread has been okay, but not great.
So I tried Lahey’s no-knead bread, but must have messed it up because it didn’t rise. It ended up like thick foccacia bread. It tasted good, but it didn’t look like the glorious no-knead bread I’ve seen in the pictures.
In the process of reading about Lahey’s no-knead bread on Show-Me Eats, I learned about Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and the follow-up book, Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I’m pretty committed to baking with whole grains, so this intrigued me and I immediately put the book on hold at the library.
The basic premise to the method is that you make a large master batch of no-knead dough, bake a loaf or two right away, and store the rest of the dough in the fridge. Depending on the recipe, the dough can be stored for 7-14 days. You can pull out a wad of dough at any point during that time, allow it to rise and have fresh bread with little to no active effort. You can also add other ingredients to some of the dough afterwards to turn the bread into other products, like rolls or different flavoured breads.
I tried the 100% whole wheat and olive oil recipe, and the master batch made enough for four loaves. I made two right away, and a week later made another loaf and morphed the last bit into a spicy flatbread which was totally amazing.
I think my technique could be perfected, but overall I’m really happy with the method. The “5 minutes a day” is a bit of a misnomer; I think they basically averaged over several days the 20-25 minutes you spend making the dough up front. But either way, the active prep time is minimal and it didn’t seem too challenging to keep on top of the rise times.
For having very little bread-making experience and zero experience with this method, I’m pretty happy with how my breads turned out. I had to return the book to the library, but to whoever had it on hold after me: I want it back. :)