Yeast: Can it be decreased in the recipes?

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Short answer:  Yes!

Our method is super-fast because it’s based on stored dough, not because we use a full dose of granulated yeast in the recipes. In the 2007 edition of our first book, we used full-dose yeast (which was 1 1/2 tablespoons for four pounds of dough) because we knew that many of our readers would want to use the dough within a few hours of mixing it. For our 2013 update of that book, we decreased our full dose of yeast to 1 tablespoon, because our testing showed that the extra half-tablespoon made little difference. We’d still consider that a full dose of yeast in a four-pound batch, and you can decrease to 1 tablespoon in any of our recipes, from any of our books. But if you have more time for the initial rise, you can decrease it further–by large margins.  Half-doses, quarter-doses, and even less will work. When using fresh cake yeast, increase by 50% (by volume) to match the rising power of granulated yeast. 

Why use less yeast?  Experienced yeast bakers sometimes prefer the more delicate flavor and aroma of a dough risen with less packaged yeast. Traditionally, it’s felt that rising the dough very slowly, with very little added yeast, builds a better flavor. So this is an option to try when you have more time:

I tried it two ways, first halving the yeast (1/2 tablespoon), and then dropping it way down, to 1/2 teaspoon. Both worked, but they work slowly. For the 1/2 teaspoon version, you need to give the dough 6 to 12 hours to rise. The 1/2 tablespoon version needs something in between (about 4-5 hours). You don’t need to increase the resting time after the loaf is shaped. Active time is still five minutes a loaf, it’s just your passive resting and rising times that really escalate when you go to the low-yeast version. If you use cool or cold water with a low-yeast preparation, you’ll need 18 to 36 hours for the initial rise.

So if you’ve hesitated to try our method because you like your loaves risen long and slow, give this approach a try.

Low yeast/slow rise with egg-enriched breads: Readers have asked us about the food-safety issues in trying low yeast/slow rise at room temperature with egg-enriched doughs.  Raw egg shouldn’t be left out too long at room temp. How long is too long? US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is very conservative on this question; they say 2 hours is the max (click here and scroll down for their detailed recommendations). Understand that this would make it impossible to rise a cold-started egg-enriched dough fully at room temperature (though we’ve found that two hours on the counter is enough even for a 33% yeast reduction; the problems start when you make more significant reductions, which would require 8 to 24 hours on the counter). The risk is salmonella and other food-borne illnesses. Even though eggs in baked breads are fully cooked, the USDA is clear on this– 2 hours max.  They’re a very conservative organization– for example, you basically can’t eat hamburger with any pink in it, according to USDA.

To stay in compliance with USDA guidelines for egg-based doughs, refrigerate at 2 hours regardless of whether the batch has fully risen.  Then, allow the rising to complete at refrigerator temperature (18 to 36 hours).

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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We’re interviewed on “The Splendid Table” National Public Radio show, 12/15/07

epiZoe and I were heard today on National Public Radio’s The Splendid Table, where we were interviewed by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. We got a chance to tell a national audience how our method works, and why stored dough is so extraordinarily different from traditional methods. There were terrific radio sound effects, like the pain d’epi (wheat-stalk bread) we’d brought, crackling obediently for Lynne’s microphone (Mark Luinenburg’s gorgeous picture of an epi is above). It was great fun to make contact with the show and the radio personality who helped launch our book. Seven years ago, I’d called in to the same show to ask how amateurs can get a cookbook published. An editor was listening, asked for a proposal, and voila! Zoe and I did the proposal (eventually), wrote the book (eventually), and now it’s in its third printing (eventually!) Click here to listen to the show… we’re about 13 minutes into the broadcast.

New video and great article by Rick Nelson in the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Zoe and I were interviewed last month by Rick Nelson, food writer at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the article came out on December 6, 2007. Rick was more than kind to us: “…If holiday gift-givers are aiming to buy one new cookbook title for the bakers in their lives, they should look no further than the remarkable Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day… Hertzberg and Francois should have called their burst of genius Breadmaking for Dummies — that’s how user-friendly it is… their master recipe is wildly flexible, generously adapting to a wide range of breads, pizzas, flatbreads and pastries.” Read the entire review.

We’re just as excited about Jenni Pinkley’s fantastic video that she shot for the paper’s website. Astute and attentive viewers will note Zoe’s incisive comment as the video closes. Click here to see the video. Speaking of video, I think Martha Stewart was talking about us when she interviewed legendary cookbook editor Judith Jones on The Martha Stewart Show that aired last week. Martha asked Judith (who edited Julia Child and James Beard) “what do you think of this wet bread that you hardly let rise, you hardly do anything to it, you just sort of put it in the oven?” Judith wasn’t buying; she told Martha that “kneading is the fun of making bread.” Martha asked her “I know, but what if you don’t have to?”

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves. See the video (click on the “video” tab once you get there; Martha brings up bread at 2:15 into the video).

Convection oven works great

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People have asked whether our recipes can be made in convection ovens. They can, and the only reason we didn’t mention convection ovens in our first book is that most people don’t have them.

But convection ovens do a great job with bread– the bread browns easier and rises higher when the convection fan is blowing. After ten years of living with a broken convection fan, we finally had a mechanic look at it who knew how to fix it. So I’ve been re-testing everything with convection.  First, lower the heat by 25 degrees F. Make sure that the convection fan isn’t fooling your thermostat (use an oven thermometer).

For a loaf-pan bread made from Italian Peasant Bread dough (page 46 of ABin5), the loaf baked faster than usual (about 25 to 30 minutes), rose higher, browned more deeply, and was more attractive. The pan was placed directly on the stone near the center of the oven and baked with steam (page 30). The loaf was heavenly when cooled and cut. Perfect custard crumb (dough was a week old) and richly carmelized crust.

In many convection ovens, you will need to be more attentive to turning the loaf around, at least once at the midpoint of baking or beyond. Otherwise you’ll get uneven browning.

But be aware that many newer convection ovens automatically make an adjustment, so consult the owners manual that came with your oven before deciding what to do about the set temperature. 

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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Grissini– Olive Oil Breadsticks

Hmm. What to do with that leftover prosciutto? Better wrap it around some Italian breadsticks (grissini). Grissini are infused with olive oil, but since the oil infuses just as nicely when drizzled over the unbaked sticks as when mixed into the dough, you have a variety of choices of which pre-mixed dough to use– you don’t have to use an olive oil dough (even our olive oil dough will need additional oil). This batch was made with a basic peasant dough (page 46), but as below, it works nicely with any of the listed ones.

Immediately after being photographed, the grissini consented to being wrapped with strips of prosciutto and consumed with white wine.

Makes a generous handful of grissini

Use any of these pre-mixed doughs: Boule (page 26), European Peasant (page 46), Olive Oil (page 134), Light Whole Wheat (page 74), or Italian Semolina (page 80)

1/2 pound (orange-size portion) of any pre-mixed dough listed above

Olive oil for drizzling, preferably extra-virgin, dispensed from a small-tipped squeeze bottle

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. A baking stone is optional, but if you’re using one, allow for a 20 minute preheat, otherwise 5 minutes is adequate.

2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat, or simply grease it well with olive oil.

2. Take a small piece of dough and gently roll it into a ball. Gradually stretch and roll the ball on a lightly floured wooden board until you achieve sticks with a diameter of about 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Lay them out on the prepared cookie sheet with an inch or so between each stick.

3. Generously drizzle a stream of olive oil over each stick.

4. Bake near the center of the oven for approximately 6 to 10 minutes. Grissini are done when they are nicely browned and beginning to crisp (they will firm up when they cool). Serve plain as an hors d’oeuvre or with one half wrapped with a prosciutto strip.

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