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Home Baked Goodness

Have you seen the enormous selection of bread that fills an entire row of the big grocery stores these days?  The beautiful loaves of organic fat-free, gluten-free, free range, whole-wheat, flax, chia, nut, and seed bread, carefully wrapped in thin layers of plastic by loving machines?  We used to buy that stuff…  until an accidental discovery that an open loaf was still as fresh as spring rain, weeks after it was opened.  Closer examination of the long list of ingredients revealed a long list of preservatives and chemicals

Next stop:  the farmer’s market.  The beautiful loaves of organic fat-free, gluten-free, free range, whole-wheat, flax, chia, nut, and seed bread smelled wonderful, fresh baked that morning.  The owner of the family owned bakery would give us samples and chat amiably while we browsed his wares.  And why wouldn’t he be happy, when a loaf of bread cost $6 – $8.  But it was delicious and we knew what was in it

Winnie was working her way through a series of world-renowned cook books, and decided to take on a new challenge:  home baked bread.  She ordered the best selling bread baking book on Amazon, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread.  Used, of course 🙂

Like a school girl waking up to Christmas morning, she danced with glee when it finally arrived.  The book carefully lays out the delicate art of traditional bread making.  All 12 stages, in exacting detail.  8 hours later, exhausted and covered in flour, we enjoyed the output of our own little sweatshop.  Without question, it was quite good.  But also something no sane person would choose to do on a daily or even weekly basis.  Those $8 loaves of bread from the farmer’s market were starting to call us once again.  A few weeks later, another unsuspecting patron bought an used book on Amazon

Some weeks later, we were nibbling on some appetizers at a dinner party.  We were impressed enough with the bread to ask our host where they got it.  “I made it!  It is really easy!”, she said.  5 minutes later, our lives were changed forever when she introduced us to an amazing bread making recipe that was simple and hassle free.  This basic recipe can be used to make baguette, boule, ciabatta, or even focaccia, and your hands only touch the dough for 5 minutes.

This post shares the entire recipe, as implemented by Winnie, with step-by-step photos.  It is the official bread of Go Curry Cracker!

Ingredients:
Unbleached all-purpose flour – 6.5 cups
Active dry yeast – 2 packets (1.5 Tbsp)
Sea salt – 1.5 Tbsp
Lukewarm water – 3 cups

Equipment:
6L Plastic container with cover
Pizza stone or ceramic cookware (use the flat side)  (If you don’t have a pizza stone, a regular cookie sheet is fine. The bread will just be less crusty)
Wooden spoon
Wooden cutting board
Boiler tray (a heavy duty pan)
Knife

Process:
Mix all of the ingredients in the 6L plastic container with a wooden spoon until there is no obvious dry powder (2 minutes)
Cover the bucket UNSEALED
Let dough rise for 2 hours at room temperature, until dough doubles in size
Dough is now ready for use. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days

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Preparation

Baking day:
Cover hands, wooden cutting board, and pizza stone lightly in flour
Grab and cut a baseball sized chunk of dough (cutting is important to not damage the gluten bonds)
Pull the surface of the dough gently from the top around to the bottom on all sides, shaping into a ball (1 minute)
Allow to rest on wooden cutting board for 40 minutes
20 minutes before baking, with pizza stone on middle rack and boiler tray on lower rack, pre-heat oven to 450 F.
Sprinkle some flour on the surface of dough and slash a 1/4″ deep cross on top with a knife
Carefully jerk the dough off the cutting board onto the pizza stone (do not touch dough)
Quickly pour 1 cup of hot water into the boiler tray and close over door
Bake for 30 minutes in steam bath, until nicely brown
Remove bread and allow to cool before cutting (unless you plan to eat the whole thing immediately, like us)
Enjoy!

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Rise and Shaping

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Baking (note ceramic cookware and boiler tray)

Final Products

Final Products

Alternatives:
Once you have the basic recipe worked out, there are a million other options.  We regularly mix a blend of rosemary and thyme into the basic recipe, but have also used olives, bacon and cheese, and more

Thanks to this life changing discovery, we are now able to eat great bread fresh out of the oven for less than $1 a loaf.

Who are the geniuses behind this amazing recipe? It is from a great book called The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking, by Jeff Hertzberg MD and Zoe Francois

There is also a new book, called Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients.

Both books include hundreds of recipes and alternatives. The recipe we have shared above is available freely online, so there is no need to purchase either book (although we have done so because we appreciate the incredible benefits we have received from their work.)

If you wish, get your own copy with the links below. Or for anybody in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Winnie is teaching several friends how to make bread this Saturday, December 14th (2013). Feel free to contact us if you would like to stop by

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