Master Recipe for Healthy Bread in Five Minutes

This recipe courtesy of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

Makes enough dough for at least four 1- pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.

Ingredients:

  • Whole wheat flour 5 1⁄2 cups
  • All- purpose flour,unbleached 2 cups
  • Granulated yeast* 11⁄2 tablespoons (2 packets)
  • Kosher salt 1 tablespoon
  • Vital wheat gluten 1⁄4 cup
  • Lukewarm water 4 cups
  • Cornmeal or parchment paper for the pizza peel
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of whole seed mixture for sprinkling on top crust: sesame, flaxseed, caraway, raw sunflower, poppy, and/or anise (optional)

Mixing and Storing the Dough

  1. Measure the dry ingredients: Use dry-ingredient measuring cups (avoid 2-cup measures, which compress the flour) to gently scoop up flour from a bin, then sweep the top level with a knife or spatula (you can also weigh your ingredients using the equivalents provided). Whisk together the flours, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten in a 5-quart bowl, or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded plastic food container or food-grade bucket (not airtight).
  2. Mix with water— kneading is unnecessary: Warm the water until it feels slightly warmer than body temperature (about 100°F). Add all at once to the dry ingredients and mix without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour to incorporate if you’re not using a machine. Using warm water will allow the dough to rise fully in about 2 hours. Don’t knead! It isn’t necessary. You’re finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches. This step is done in a matter of minutes, and will yield a dough that is wet and remains loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.
  3. Allow to rise: Cover the dough with a lid (not airtight) that fits well to the container.  If you are using a bowl, cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Lidded (or even vented) plastic buckets designed for dough storage are readily available (page 29); leave it open a crack for the first 48 hours to prevent buildup of gases; after that you can usually seal it.  Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), approximately 2 hours, depending on the room’s temperature and the initial water temperature.  Longer rising times, even overnight, will not harm the result. After rising, refrigerate in the lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 14 days.  Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature. So, the first time you try our method, it’s best to refrigerate the dough overnight (or at least 3 hours), before shaping a loaf.  Once refrigerated, the dough will seem to have shrunk back upon itself. It will never rise again in the bucket, which is normal for our dough. What ever you do, do not punch down this dough! With our method, you’re trying to retain as much gas in the dough as possible, and punching it down knocks gas out and will make your loaves denser.
  4. On Baking Day:   Shape a loaf in 20 to 40 seconds. First, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal (or lining it with parchment paper, or use a silicone mat) to prevent your loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven. Dust the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough, using a serrated knife or kitchen shears. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating a quarter-turn as you go to form a ball. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough. The bottom of the ball may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out and adhere during resting and baking. The correctly shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds. If you work the dough longer than this, it might make your loaf dense.
  5. Form a narrow oval- shaped loaf and let it rest: Stretch the ball gently to elongate it, and taper the ends by rolling them between your palms and pinching them (for a really professional result, use the letter-fold method on page 68).
  6. Allow the loaf to rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, on the prepared pizza peel for 90 minutes (40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough). Alternatively, you can rest the loaf on a silicone mat or on a greased cookie sheet without using a pizza peel. Depending on the age of the dough, you might not see much rise during this period; instead, it will spread sideways. More rising will occur during baking (oven spring).
  7. Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450°F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty metal broiler tray for holding water on any other rack that won’t interfere with the rising bread.
  8. Paint and slash: Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top with water. Sprinkle with the seed mixture if desired. Slash the loaf with 1⁄4- inch- deep parallel cuts across the top. Use a serrated bread knife held perpendicularly to the bread.
  9. Baking with steam: After a 30-minute preheat, you’re ready to bake, even though your oven thermometer might not yet be up to full temperature.  With a quick forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the preheated baking stone. If you used parchment paper instead of cornmeal, it will slide onto the stone with the loaf, and if you used a silicone mat or cookie sheet, just place it on the stone. Quickly but carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water from the tap into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam (or use an alternative method to bake with steam; see pages 27 and 28). Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is richly browned and firm to the touch (smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking time). If you used parchment paper, a silicone mat, or a cookie sheet under the loaf, carefully remove it and bake the loaf directly on the stone or on an oven rack two- thirds of the way through baking. When you remove the loaf from the oven, it may audibly crackle, or “sing,” when initially exposed to room-temperature air. Allow the bread to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack, for best flavor, texture, and slicing. The perfect crust may initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled.
  10. Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next 14 days. You’ll notice throughout the book that certain ingredients mean a shorter shelf life. You’ll find that even 24 hours of storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. The dough begins to ferment and take on sourdough characteristics.

    VARIATION: Herb Bread
    This simple recipe shows off the versatility of our approach. Herb- scented breads are great favorites for appetizers and snacks. Follow the directions for mixing the Master Recipe dough and add 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (2 teaspoons fresh) and 1⁄2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves (1 teaspoon fresh) to the water mixture. You can also use herbs with the other bread recipes in this chapter. This also works with sliced olives, chopped garlic, onions, seeds, nuts, or any other of your favorite ingredients

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