Ever notice how often "fresh baked bread" and/or "homemade pizza" show up on the Rational Living menus?
They're both frequent visitors because of the genius folks behind Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Their book has been out for a while, but I first read about their recipe and technique in Mother Earth News. They also have a blog where they share tips and recipes and an ever-expanding list of creative ways to use their dough.
The idea is simple - create a very wet dough that can happily live in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. While it waits for you the yeast chemistry is creating a nice dough that will be fluffy and tender upon baking.
When you're ready to bake just remove a grapefruit size portion, follow the shaping and no-hassle rising instructions, and then bake on your baking stone with a little water added to an oven-proof dish to keep the loaf from drying out during the baking process.
That's it. What you end up with is artisan-quality bread straight from your oven. It's so good our girls actually ask for the heal pieces.
The dough also makes a great pizza crust. Just take out an appropriately sized portion, roll it as thin or thick as you like, top and bake on the pizza stone. I like a very thin, crisp crust and this dough delivers as long as my pizza isn't too loaded with toppings and I use the baking stone. I've found that rolling the dough out on parchment paper and then transferring the parchment paper and pizza en masse onto the baking stone makes the entire process much more user-friendly (anyone who has had their pizza flip and land topping-side down in a botched transfer attempt will appreciate this advice).
I haven't yet tried some of the other basic recipes they offer for the same technique (including a sandwich bread and french bread). With the warmer weather approaching I'm sure we'll be baking less, but in the meantime we'll be enjoying a weekly dose of freshly baked bread!