As I mentioned in my post below, I recently bought the cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day after reading lots of raves and reviews about it. The idea is quite intriguing. You mix up a big batch of dough that will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. You just pull off portions of the dough to make your bread whenever you want it. It sounds too easy, doesn't it?
So last night, I made up my first batch of artisan bread dough. I just did the basic dough, I believe its called Boule or something like that, as that is what the authors recommend starting out with. I've decided I probably shouldn't post the actual recipe for the dough since I haven't found a place yet that has posted them - so I don't want to be the first and end up getting myself in trouble or something. But I'll explain the methods. The dough was so easy to whip up. Basically some warm water, yeast, salt, and flour. No proofing of the yeast. Mix it till its just mixed through. No kneading is necessary. Then you let it rise for a couple of hours, then throw the dough in the refrigerator. You can make your first loaf right then and there, but the authors recommend using chilled dough for your first try, so that is what I did.
This morning, I got up and tore off a piece of dough. You are supposed to put it on a pizza peel then slide it onto a baking stone when you put it in the oven, but I just used a baking sheet since I've never had a pizza peel and I no longer having my baking stone (was tired of moving with it, it was so heavy and I rarely used it, so I threw it out before we moved into our house). I sprinkled a little cornmeal on my baking sheet, quickly shaped the dough, and plopped it onto the sheet to let it rise for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, I was getting ready for work. After rising 40 minutes, into the oven it went to bake for 30 minutes with a pan of water for steam to help give the bread that nice, crispy artisan crust.
The bread is now sitting at home, cooling. The authors recommend letting it cool completely before slicing into the bread. So tonight we'll taste it - I can't wait. The house smelled so good this morning. I just love the smell of fresh-baked bread! And this was so easy, that I can see myself making bread in the mornings before work quite often now - one more way to avoid lots of HFCS and processed junk in store bought bread... and its way quicker than using my bread machine (which I'll still use, for sure, but it'll be great to be able to do all different kinds of breads now!).