Saturday, February 2, 2008
As Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter (in Minnesota, this is good news), I leafed through my new Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book.
So many possibilities! I finally decided to make the buttermilk bread--just because I had buttermilk in the refrigerator. (Buttermilk in the refrigerator is a perpetual problem--first, you're required to use it up, because you've been brought up not to waste food; second, as you've almost made it through the quart, you realize that you don't have enough to make the fourth buttermilk recipe, so you have to buy more; third, back to step one. I decided to throw away the rest of the buttermilk after I finished with this bread, ignoring the voices of my mother and grandmothers).
I was more impressed with this bread than I was with the semolina bread. I liked the texture and flavor a lot, and I got the salt right this time.
A brief segue to the virtues of weighing instead of measuring: The first thing I did, after deciding what bread to try next, was to convert the cups to grams. As I suspected, the whole oversalting issue would have been avoided if the recipes in this book were in ounces or grams instead of cups or tablespoons. I carefully measured out 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt--22 grams. Then I weighed 22 grams of table salt--1 tablespoon.
In other words, if the master recipe specified 22 grams of salt instead of 1 1/2 tablespoons, it wouldn't matter what kind of salt you used. This time I used 22 grams of kosher salt, and I thought it was just right.
I can't really blame the authors for this. In fact, I noticed that Zoe Francois's web site notes that they considered using weights and decided against it because so few Americans weigh ingredients. I agree. I am a dedicated convert, but I have yet to convince a single person that weighing ingredients is not only more accurate, but much EASIER and NEATER. (No more scraping a quarter-cup of honey from a measuring cup and then washing the cup). When I say this, people just look at me, gimlet-eyed.
Like the first bread I made from this book, mixing the dough up is ridiculously easy. Put water, buttermilk, salt, yeast, sugar, and all-purpose white flour in a mixing bowl; mix with a dough hook (or just stir) until everything comes together; let rise for a couple of hours, then refrigerate for future use. Or make one loaf immediately, as I did.
The buttermilk bread recipe makes three 1 1/2-pound loaves instead of four 1-pound loaves. The 1 1/2-pound loaf is a nicer size, I think, so I'll probably continue to make my loaves bigger than the specified one-pounders.
Even though I cut slices while the bread was still warm, the bread stood up to the knife without being squashed, yet it had a tender crumb. Although I used all white flour, I'm sure you could substitute part whole-wheat with equally good results. While I thought the five-minute semolina bread was good, it wasn't as good as a more complicated recipe. This bread, however, compares favorably with any other white sandwich bread I've made. The authors also include a cinnamon-raisin bread recipe used with this bread dough and suggest that you can use the dough for any of the boule recipes in an earlier chapter.
My daughter Sarah came over for a visit just as this bread was coming out of the oven. Although she's lost twelve pounds on the South Beach diet, and has been steely in her resolve to cut back on carbs, this bread was more than she could say no to. I was sorry to be responsible for her breaking her diet, but like any mother, I was happy she said yes when I said, "Would you like another slice?"
P.S. Local readers may want to check out the Edesia Cookbook Review that will be held at the Galleria's Barnes & Noble in Edina on Monday, Feb. 25 at 7:00. Kim Ode has started a monthly cookbook review, and the February session is on bread. Kim, who built her own bread oven and is active in the St. Paul Bread Club, Solveig Tofte, head baker at the Turtle Bread Company, and I will talk about some of our favorite bread cookbooks. It will be very informal and, I hope, fun. Of course, my topic is The Bread Bible.