After one of my kids told me I could bake bread in my new enamel Dutch oven, I was on a quest. A bit of research quick found Jim Lahey's No Knead Crusty Bread recipe that originally appeared in The New York Time's Minimalist column. Others have used that recipe as a starting point, modifying the amounts of yeast, salt and water as well as adding a wide range of other ingredients but the basics of making this bread are the same. Jim himself has modified the original method to shorten the fermentation time. Jim's method relies on a lot of water to make a sticky dough, little yeast and a fermentation period of 12 to 18 hours then after forming the loaf, it is left to rise for 40 minutes and finally baked in a pre-heated Dutch oven. My first loaf of no knead crusty bread was a huge success! Searching for more ideas using Jim's method, I stumbled upon a YouTube video of how to make artisan bread in five minutes a day. The no knead method was created by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe François who have written three cookbooks using their method. Their method involves making a larger batch of dough, let it ferment 2 to three hours until bubbly then refrigerate the dough, cutting of a piece when you want to make a loaf of bread. Well, that certainly had my interest!
I modified a recipe that had been modified from the master dough recipe in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe François. That recipe had been modified to use a bit more yeast and the method modified to use a Dutch oven. Jeff and Zoe use a tray of water in the oven under the baking loaf of bread. I modified that recipe to use unbleached flour, instant yeast and sea salt and like the video, I just cut off the amount of dough I wanted to use rather than weigh it out.
Basic Five Minute a Day Artisan Dough
6½ c unbleached flour
3 c warm water
2 tbsp instant yeast
1½ tbsp sea salt
[method as follows in the commentary]
After dumping the dry ingredients in a , I mixed them together with a fork. Once the dry ingredients were mixed, I poured in the warm water and started mixing with a fork. It quickly became apparent that the best way to mix this dough was with my hands. It was a bit slow going.
The two characteristics of this bread dough that set it apart from kneaded bread doughs is the shaggy appearance and high moisture content. The moisture content is what will create the crispy, chewy crusty and moist interior of the bread. Like the no knead crusty bread, the best way to achieve these results is baking in a Dutch oven although Zoe uses the water in a tray under the baking loaf of bread method.
In all honesty, the Five Minutes a Day is a bit misleading, actually quite misleading. To use this dough, you cut off a piece the desired size then shape it into the desired shape. So that part does take about five minutes. However, the shaped dough must then sit for at least two hours to rise, then it bakes for a total of 65 - 75 minutes. In terms of time, a kneaded bread (and I do make a lot of kneaded) can be made in that same time frame. In short, there is no time savings at all. The only thing eliminated is the kneading. The second observation with this method is the container is large, and it has to be large to accommodate the bubbly dough. A container this large takes up a lot of refrigerator space that can be a problem for some. However, there are two benefits to using the Five Minute a Day Artisan Bread method.
The long, cool fermentation results in an outstanding bread with a nice flavour and rise. As the dough continues to ferment in the refrigerator it develops the tang of sourdough, becoming stronger the longer it fermentss. So, this is a very easy way to make faux sourdough bread. True sourdough bread uses a starter without any additional yeast added. Ideally the Five Minute a Day Artisan Bread method is meant to make five loaves of bread over five days. In reality, this is not feasible for some folks, including ourselves as we use three to four loaves of bread per week. I actually made my first loaf of bread from the fermented dough two days after it first went into the refrigerator. Now, the no knead crusty bread (12 - 18 hr room temperature fermentation) was excellent but the loaf made with the cold fermentation (Five Minute a Day method) was outstanding!
Both the no knead crusty bread and five minute a artisan day bread dough methods have their pros and cons. Both give above average results. I am now on to experimenting with both recipes, tweaking bake times and temperature just slightly to get the bottom crust just right. I am also experimenting with additions. I will share the results of the experiments as they become available.