Desperate means call for desperate measures. I would call the Bread Situation in Zambia pretty desperate. Fluffy white wonder-loaf type things, sometimes formed into balls and called “rolls” or shaped like a braided challah. Whatever it’s shape, it remains a soft, squishy, vegetable shortening-enhanced product of quality one step away from a hot dog bun. Yuck!
Thank goodness for Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. This website literally saved me from Bread Purgatory and it really is as easy to make as the recipe says. And the bread comes out looking like this!
Sometimes I make it with a slash and sometimes I forget, as you can see here. Either way it is beautiful, rustic and golden brown, like the bread in the bakeries in Ukraine (or maybe Whole Foods). The inside is perfect, chewy and full of holes.
It reminds me of the Tuscan Pane I used to buy from Trader Joe’s. But since there is no TJ’s down the street here in Lusaka, I am beside myself with Happy having discovered that this can be made at home. And it really is easy! I bake it in my Le Creuset pot with the lid on, and if you are a bread lover, this is truly Bread Heaven.
Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes A Day / Master Recipe Free-Form Boule
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups flour, measured using the scoop and sweep method. I’ve used both regular all-purpose flour and bread flour with this recipe, both turn out fine. The all-purpose flour makes a stickier dough but also gives the loaf more holes, which I prefer. The taste is wonderful either way!
Resealable, lidded (but not airtight) plastic food container, or a 5 quart bowl.
1. Warm the water slightly to activate the yeast, then add the water, yeast and salt to the bowl. I use a big plastic bucket container that is sort of like tupperware, that I found pretty cheap at a store.
2. Add in the flour all at once and mix it with a big wooden spoon. If it’s hard to mix with the spoon, stick your hands in and press it together until the dry spots are gone.
3. Allow it to rise. Cover with the lid but only loosely. If the lid is on tight it will explode (or so I’m told!) Allow the mixture to rest at room temperature and rise until it starts to collapse or flatten on top. This can be anywhere from 2 to 5 hours, it doesn’t really matter if you forget because the result will still be fine.
4. After the rising time, it’s ready to be used for baking. I always put it in the refrigerator (with the lid loosely on top) for at least a day, preferably a week before I bake with it. The refrigerated dough is easier to handle, and the longer it sits, the more sour it gets. And as a Seattle person, I will do anything for sourdough.
5. On Baking Day: Take a hunk of dough out of the size you want your loaf to be. I can usually make 3 loaves out of one batch. The recipe says you can make 5, but those seem like pretty small loaves! Sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour if it’s too sticky, then put it on a piece of parchment paper and shape it into a loaf. You don’t have to need it or roll it or anything, just tuck the ends under to make the sides smooth, and the loaf nice and round. This should take only 30-60 seconds.
6. Let the loaf rest on the parchment for 1-2 hours, depending on how “tired” the dough is. It may not rise a whole lot, but it will rise more during baking. I usually let it sit for at least 2 hours.
7. 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 and put your Le Creuset pot in the oven to preheat too.
8. When the dough is ready, dust it with flour so the knife doesn’t stick, and slash the top if you want to.
Pick up the piece of parchment and drop the whole thing (including parchment) into the pot. Put the lid on and put it back in the oven.
9. Bake for about 20 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and bake for 10-15 more minutes depending on the size of the loaf. That’s it!
And then you get this:
With the slash: