Friday, February 12, 2010

The best version of Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day I have come up with yet!

Okay, for those of you who don't know about the wonderful book Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day let me give you the low down....they have simplified the homemade bread process down to a few simple steps and a "master recipe" that makes having warm, crusty bread from scratch as easy as pie. Easier actually, much easier than pie! I was super excited about the book - so excited that I keep lending it out. (p.s. Who has my book?) In this bread I have tweaked the "master recipe" to my liking and would love to share it with you. This recipe will make 2 - 3 nice sized loaves. You can cut off dough for one loaf at a time and save the rest in the fridge.

Ciabata"ish" Loaf That Will Make You Drool:
In a very large bowl (with a lid that fits) blend:

1 1/2 Tbls. yeast
3 c. warm water
2 tsp. sugar (I like turbinado)
2 tsp. salt

Add between 3 - 4 cups flour to make a wet, not too stiff, dough. Stir fairly well.

Now set the dough aside to rise (covered) for about an hour.

At this point you can cut off some dough to use now or just throw the bowl in the fridge and use the dough throughout the week.

When you are ready to bake some bread you will need to dust the dough in the bowl with some flour (for easier handling) and cut off as much dough as you would like to use. WARNING: the dough will be wet and you should handle it minimally. This is the key to having a wonderful loaf!
Place the bread on a well floured pizza peel or cutting board. Just tuck in the edges to make a ball or long loaf and then put it down. Don't bother making it pretty. (You can use cornmeal to dust the surface if you rather- but I hate that texture - so I do not.) Cover the bread once more with a hearty dusting of flour. Let the loaf rise until it is no longer cool to the touch. In the meantime preheat your oven to 425. If you will be baking the loaf on a baking stone remember to preheat the stone with the oven. Place a broiler tray in the oven as well.

When the oven is hot transfer the bread to the stone (or baking sheet) and pour 2 cups of water into the broiler tray. (The water in the air will give the bread such a wonderful crust.) Bake until golden brown ( 15 - 30 minutes depending on loaf size) and then let cool for at least 10 - 20 minutes before cutting into.

We have made every size and shape of this bread...everything from sloppy joe buns to big loaves we sliced and served with soup. I have even rolled it out and made fried scones with honey butter! Yum!

What a delicious doesn't get much better (or easier) than this! Balsamic Marinated Chicken, Gorgonzola, Grape and Sweet Pecan Salad.

I can hardly call this a recipe, it is more like an ensemble cast of ingredients with a few helpful pointers, but here goes anyway...
First marinate the chicken in your favorite Balsamic Dressing. I do like the Newman's Own variety. You can Marinate it for just 10 minutes to overnight. It is really fine either way. Once the chicken has marinated you can grill it or pan fry it. While it cooks throw some chopped pecans in a frying pan (preferably not your nicest frying pan - the nuts really eat away at the non-stick coating) and toast for a minute or two over medium heat. Stir constantly. Dump in just a bit of brown sugar and heat for a minute more. Add the tiniest bit of water - to get the sugar to adhere to the nuts. Stir over heat for just 30 - 45 seconds. Turn the heat off and wait for them to cool. (These are wonderful on salads, or for snacking!) Now you just need to assemble your salad - greens, crumbled Gorgonzola, grapes, chicken and pecans. I recommend drizzling it with a little more of the balsamic dressing....but a number of salad dressings would be nice...mostly those on the sweet side.