Back to Basics ~ tips and techniques to create a great loaf in 5 minutes a day.

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Note that there is an updated version of this post, click here to view.

Recently we have seen lots of new readers on the website who are asking wonderful questions about how to perfect their loaves. First I’d like to say welcome to the site and thank you for trying the bread. As I bake through the basic Master recipe from ABin5 I will try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and also introduce you to a few new pieces of equipment I’ve recently started to use that make the whole experience just a little easier.  The goal is to create a large batch of dough that stores in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. That’s why our method saves  you so much time– all the mixing and prep is divided over four one-pound loaves.

Master Recipe from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking:

3 cups lukewarm water (you can use cold water, but it will take the dough longer to rise. Just don’t use hot water or you may kill the yeast)

1 tablespoon granulated yeast ( you can use any kind of yeast including: instant, “quick,” rapid rise, bread machine, active dry, or fresh cake yeast*. We’ve always tested with Red Star Yeast and they have a new premium product called PLATINUM, which has worked beautifully in our recipes. You can also decrease the amount of yeast in the recipe by following the directions here. Or you can bake with a sour dough starter, see instructions here.)

*If you use cake yeast you will need 1.3 ounces.

1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons Morton Kosher Salt (adjust to suit your taste or eliminate it all together. Find more information here)

6 1/2 cups (2-pounds) all-purpose flour (we tested the recipes with Gold Medal flour. If you use a higher protein flour check here)

Mixing the dough:

Platinum Yeast | Breadin5

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In a 5 or 6 quart bowl or lidded Food Storage Container, dump in the water and add the yeast and salt. Because we are mixing in the flour so quickly it doesn’t matter that the salt and yeast are thrown in together.

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(If you are using the fresh cake yeast break it up with a spoon)

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Dump in the flour all at once and stir with a long handled wooden spoon or a Danish Dough Whisk, which is one of the tools that makes the job so much easier!

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Stir it until all of the flour is incorporated into the dough, as you can see it will be a wet rough dough.

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Put the lid on the container, but do not snap it shut. You want the gases from the yeast to escape. (I had my husband put a little hole in the top of the lids so that I could close the lids and still allow the gases to get out. As you can see it doesn’t take much of a hole to accomplish this.)

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Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours to rise. When you first mix the dough it will not occupy much of the container.

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But, after the initial 2 hour rise it will pretty much fill it. (If you have decreased the yeast you will have to let it go longer than 2 hours.)  DO NOT PUNCH DOWN THE DOUGH! Just let it settle by itself.

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The dough will be flat on the top and some of the bubbles may even appear to be popping. (If you intend to refrigerate the dough after this stage it can be placed in the refrigerator even if the dough is not perfectly flat. The yeast will continue to work even in the refrigerator.) The dough can be used right after the initial 2 hour rise, but it is much easier to handle when it is chilledIt is intended for refrigeration and use over the next two weeks, ready for you anytime.  The flavor will deepen over that time, developing sourdough characteristics.

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The next day when you pull the dough out of the refrigerator you will notice that it has collapsed and this is totally normal for our dough. It will never rise up again in the container.

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Dust the surface of the dough with a little flour, just enough to prevent it from sticking to your hands when you reach in to pull a piece out.

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You should notice that the dough has a lot of stretch once it has rested. (If your dough breaks off instead of stretching like this your dough is probably too dry and you can just add a few tablespoons of water and let it sit again until the dough absorbs the additional water.)

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Cut off a 1-pound piece of dough using kitchen shears* and form it into a ball. For instructions on how to form the ball watch one of our videos.  Place the ball on a sheet of parchment paper… (or rest it on a generous layer of corn meal on top of a pizza peel.)

*I actually use a pair of Sewing Shears because I like the long blade. I just dedicated a pair to the kitchen.

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Let the dough rest for at least 40 minutes, (although letting it go 60 or even 90 minutes will give you a more open hole structure in the interior of the loaf. This may also improve the look of your loaf and prevent it from splitting on the bottom. ) You will notice that the loaf does not rise much during this rest, in fact it may just spread sideways, this is normal for our dough.

You can also try our “refrigerator rise trick,” shaping the loaves and then immediately refrigerating them overnight.  By morning, they’ll have risen and are ready for the oven after a brief room-temp rest while the oven preheats (click for instructions).

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a Baking Stone* on the center rack, with a metal broiler tray on the bottom (never use a glass vessel for this or it will shatter), which will be used to produce steam. (The tray needs to be at least 4 or 5 inches away from your stone to prevent it from cracking.)

*(or Cast Iron Pizza Panwhich will never crack and conducts heat really well. Be careful to dry it after rinsing with water or it will rust)

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Cut the loaf with 1/4-inch slashes using a serrated knife. (If your slashes are too shallow you will end up with an oddly shaped loaf and also prevent it from splitting on the bottom.)

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Slide the loaf into the oven onto a preheated stone (the one I’m using is the cast iron) and add a cup of hot water to the broiler tray. Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes or until a deep brown color. As the bread bakes you should notice a nice oven spring in the dough. This is where the dough rises. To insure that you get the best results it is crucial to have an Oven Thermometer to make sure your oven is accurate.

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If you used parchment paper you will want to remove it after about 20-25 minutes to crisp up the bottom crust. Continue baking the loaf directly on the stone for the last 5-10 minutes.

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Allow the loaf to cool on a rack until it is room temperature. If you cut into a loaf before it is cooled you will have a tough crust and a gummy interior. It is hard to wait, but you will be happy you did! Make sure you have a nice sharp Bread Knife that will not crush the bread as you cut. Or you can tear it apart as they do in most of Europe.

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If you have any leftover bread just let it sit, uncovered on the cutting board or counter with the cut side down. If you cover a bread that has a crust it will get soggy.

Enjoy and have fun baking. Bread that is made with love and joy tastes better!



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1,378 thoughts on “Back to Basics ~ tips and techniques to create a great loaf in 5 minutes a day.

  1. i am reading your book right now and am so excited to get started baking! I had a question about the bucket, can you store it in the fridge in the container bucket that had the small hole in the lid? Or do I need a different lid with no small hole for when it’s in the fridge?

      1. Great! I am glad to have less to clean. I will be sure to use the same bucket with the hole in the lid when storing it in the fridge. Thank you!

  2. Can you clarify the type of yeast? I thought different yeasts (active dry vs instant) have different measurements, and I usually use about 40% the volume of active if I’m using instant, but you say it doesn’t matter what type…help?

  3. I like so much this recipe!

    It is so incredibly easy and flexible.I have tried to do myself a bread in using all the materials that you mentioned in your recipes, otherwise, i havn’t obtain the same results as it would be. Do you think it is due to a bad proportion of water and flour or just because of the yeast?

    Thank you

  4. I am having difficulty slashing the dough, which I think might be because my dough is slightly too wet. However, I opted for a wetter dough for a more open hole structure. Also, does the rest time affect it as well? I tend to let my dough sit out for 90 minutes before baking. Thanks!

    1. Hi Mandy,

      Slashing wet dough, especially if it has had a long rise, can be a challenge. You want to make sure you are using a very sharp, serrated knife. Hold the dough steady with one hand and move through the dough quickly with the knife. If you don’t achieve the 1/2-inch deep slash in the first swipe, then repeat the process until you do. Moving swiftly is the key to getting the knife through without sticking.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. I find that a razor blade does a much better job than a serrated knife, which tends to drag and cling to the dough. Granted, not everyone has razor blades lying around anymore; I happen to still shave with them :). But to anyone having a problem slashing wet dough, it would be worth tracking some down. You can get tiny 5-packs on Amazon if you aren’t readily finding them in your area.

      2. Honestly, I’ve had the opposite experience with wet dough, but who knows. My guess is that it depends on your bread knife.

      3. I actually found last week that using a filet knife worked *wonderfully* when I put the dough in, went “crap! I didn’t slash it!” and reached into the oven with the knife to do the slashing immediately.

    2. I use kitchen shears (scissors) to do my ‘slashing’.

      Also, I just use a cast iron dutch oven with the lid on – no need to put water in the oven or anything like that, the moisture in the bread self-steams inside the pot. Put the pot in the oven to get as hot as possible, bang the bread dough in, then I take the lid off after about 30 minutes in the oven and the bread crisps up beautifully.

  5. I halved the recipe as it was my first trial. The dough seemed a little dry and I added more water. After two hours the dough has risen nicely and I put it in the fridge. However after 3 hours when I wanted to pull out a portion, the dough seemed too wet till it was very difficult to even slash it. How can I save the remaining batch that is in the fridge ?
    Thanks.

    1. Follow the recipe in the book exactly .. but keep in mind .. all flours contain different levels of protein, and will absorb water differently.

      I have tried all the available flours from the local supermarkets .. always go for the ‘strong’ (higher protein) flours. They all absorb different levels of water.

      It is a matter of practice, when you stir the dough you will eventually get a feel for how much is right. Generally though, I use half the amount of water to flour and it works perfectly.

      Note that you should still get great results if the dough is ‘wet’ – I would err on the side of wet instead of too dry.

      Also .. i found a stirring technique where I use a metal spoon, I hold it by the round bit, using the handle as the bit that stirs the mix. I make some small circles in the middle of the dough to start off, then just make circles on the outside of the bowl. This stops the flour from sticking on the sides, and incorporates everything really nicely. Never even have to touch any dough.

      ps .. I have now been buying my flour from a local baker – i get it in bulk, is much cheaper than the supermarket, and he loves to talk shop with me – I genuinely love baking bread.

      Zoe .. I love your book(s) it really opened up this amazing world of baking fresh bread for my family.

  6. How do bakeries make those nice light, airy, chewy kaiser rolls? I’ve tried many recipes I’ve found online and although they look exactly like what I can buy at the bakery, they are usually dense and heavy.

    1. Super-airy results aren’t what you get with our method– which gives you a more toothsome crumb. Short answer: they use only white flour, knead it extensively and possibly use artificial dough conditioners. Tell me which of our books you’re working off of and I’ll make some suggestions as to what to try.

      1. Jeff, I’d love to hear your suggestions for Carole’s question above. I’ve tried many times to make light weight buns, but they’re always so heavy… I have both the new ABin5 and the healthy bread book!!

      2. Hi Carole and Lor,

        Many bakeries use flours and dough enhancers that just aren’t available to home bakers. They also use steam injected ovens and have dough kneaders and shapers, so it is very difficult to replicate much of what you can find at a production bakery. A high moisture dough like ours is not going to produce that super light interior. If we develop a recipe that can fit into our method we will post it for sure.

        Thanks, Zoë

  7. I make about a loaf a day and the results are much appreciated with whom I share. However, I consistently do not get the second rise like I would like to see. The bread is flat the end result gives me a height of of less than 3 inches. Any suggestions to give me a lift?

  8. I don’t have a stone. Can I use an inverted cast iron skillet? I have several skillets . Or, can I use a cookie sheet with parchment paper. I want to try your recipe but can’t invest in kitchen equipment at this time. Thank you.

      1. Right on surface, so long as the pan’s well-seasoned, and you reasonably dust and cornmeal the dough before setting it down.

  9. I love your book and really revolutionary is not a misstatement! I’ve been making all kinds of different recipes but there are a couple of recipes from my “old world” of bread making that I don’t want to leave behind. Do you have a guide to turning a conventional recipe into a 5-minute recipe?

    Andy

  10. How long does fresh (unrefrigerated) dough need to rise?

    To be specific, I often make a half recipe, refrigerate it for a couple days, then turn it into a single loaf requiring a 90-minute rise before baking (for 45 minutes). How long do you think it would need if I skip the refrigerator?

    1. Hi Bridget,

      Which recipe are you using, from which book? Most all of the recipes give a time for both fresh and refrigerated dough.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. It’s a general question, since I make several recipes from New Artisan Bread in 5. (Master, Buttermilk, Wheat sandwich loaf, etc.) I did find one comment in the text about halving the rise time when using fresh dough. Is that a general rule?

      2. Hi Bridget,

        In general you can reduce the time by about half. This will depend on the recipe, especially if you are working the dough a lot while shaping the bread.

        Thanks, Zoë

  11. HI

    I am from Australia and thanks for your site.

    I would like to ask what happens to the dough if you want to knead it by adding more flour to make it workable?

    Also were can I buy your book from?

    Many Thanks

    Ang

    1. Hi Ang,

      You can add a bit more flour to the dough. If you knead the dough you will need to let it rest longer after shaping it into a loaf, to allow the yeast to rise again.

      Our books are available on Amazon, but I am not sure if they are available on the Australian site?

      Thanks, Zoë

  12. I found that whisk to be just OKAY….but Zatoba came up with a longer and better one with safer bees wax finish and less harmful chemicals to keep the steel top on so it will last forever. Plus there other baking stuff rocks.

    1. Hi Shweta,

      Here are the measurements in grams. The weight measurements are in all of our books.

      680 grams water
      10 grams granulated yeast
      20 grams kosher salt
      910 grams all-purpose flour

      Thanks! Zoë

  13. Sticky!! I mean really really really sticky dough. So sticky that I can barely shape it into a ball. My hands become deeply covered with sticky dough, which of course sticks to the ball I’m trying to make 🙁 So much waste!

    Yes, I flour my hands and the dough in the bucket before beginning, but I think that very likely my bread dough is too wet right from the start, but I followed your recipe to the letter. I live in Pennsylvania if you’re wondering about altitude or humidity. Nope – none of that is a problem here.

      1. Thanks for your response. I’ll eventually figure out what I’m doing wrong, but to answer your questions:
        ` yes, I’m using scoop and sweep
        ` yes, it is regular, unbleached, all-purpose flour

        Fortunately I have a lot of patience. Currently my result is a strange looking loaf but still tasty loaf. I’m hoping next time it will look and taste great. Thanks again.

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