Friday, May 15, 2009

Easy Home-made Bread

When I first came across this Artisan Bread in 5 minutes (Abin5) recipe concocted by a doctor, I was extremely sceptical. What, home-made bread without kneading and minimal proofing times??!! Being somewhat of a lazy cook prone to shortcuts, I had considered even Mark Bittman's famous no-knead bread (first made famous by the New York Times) out of the question, as it required lots of fiddly handling, messy towels and burns from hot cast iron pots aren't exactly my thing.
But back to Abin5 as its fans fondly call it. The basic recipe is absurdly simple, the time and effort needed, a mere doddle! My first attempt didn't turn out well - maybe my oven isn't that hot and has some cold spots? - while my second attempt was much, much better even if I did have to bake it for half an hour longer than the prescribed 30 minutes. It was nice and crusty (could be a bit more crusty, maybe I should add more steam into the oven), and had a slight sourd0ugh taste as I had left it in the tupperware container for 4 days (with an airtight lid! Oops! didn't read the instructions carefully) by the time I baked it. The inside of the bread was soft with nice crumb, and stayed soft the next day after re-heating. Slightly more dense than commercial breads, which use lots of nasty chemical stabilisers to achieve that effect anyway.
I think I'm onto something here....only, I'll have to remember not to use an airtight cover (let the gases released by the hardworking yeast escape!) and to bake the dough within 2 days if I don't want sourdough bread :-) Brilliant.
Recipe: Yields 4 loaves
1.5 tablespoons yeast
1.5 tablespoons sea salt
6.5 cups plain flour (1 cup is about 240 ml)
cornmeal for dusting
In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (slightly above body temperature). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours). See my dough monster below. It TRIPLED in size in 2 hours.

Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 230 deg C; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times (be liberal with your dusting of flour, otherwise the knife can't cut through the dough). Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.
Note: You don't have to use a baking stone. I baked mine in a oiled normal baking tin.

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