New video’s coming (on how to get steam into your oven); but we’re two weeks from manuscript deadline, so here’s a Roasted Red Pepper Fougasse…

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… …and I’m having trouble finding time to finish editing the video.  Zoe and I have two more busy weeks of last-minute editing for our pizza and flatbread book (which will be out in October of 2011).  I’ll get the new video up here as soon as possible (on how to get steam into your oven), but meanwhile here’s a re-print of an old post– on roasted red pepper fougasse– a gorgeous stuffed flatbread from France, which looks ahead to next year when we’ll be talking about flatbread all the time. (more…)

Loaf pan breads work beautifully with our method

People think of artisan-style loaves as being free-form, but our method also works beautifully in loaf pans, as you can see above (read on for instructions on how to make the cinnamon-raisin bread in Zoe’s picture).  We love crusty free-form artisan loaves, but nothing says “comfort food” and kicks off the fall baking season like a luscious traditional loaf like this one.

Our friends at Red Star Yeast have offered to provide some great prize packages for a giveaway— perfect for creating loaf-pan breads.

We first met the Red Star people in Milwaukee, while on book tour for Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day— that’s where the company has its headquarters.  Red Star had found out through the bread grapevine (!) that we use their product.  Both of us have used it for years– it gives consistent, excellent results, and it’s the best value in the grocery store.  This fall, you’ll find bottles of Red Star yeast in the supermarket, with our pictures tied to them, in addition to a 75 cents-off coupon, and recipe links:

Read on to hear more about getting great results with traditional un-coated loaf pans like this one:

In our books, we’ve tended to be on the careful side about loaf pans.  Since our dough is so wet, we recommended non-stick pans and even so, to grease them well.  Yet a very heavyweight aluminum pan works beautifully too– all you have to do is grease it well (I like olive oil even for American-style breads but you can use any liquid or solid shortening you like):

… and be sure the formed dough is well dusted with flour before putting it into the pan— it shouldn’t feel all sticky as it goes in.  If it does stick a bit, just let it sit for 10 minutes after taking it out of the oven and it will “steam” itself out.  I love this pan, and when I say it’s heavyweight, I mean it.  The pan weighs a full pound…

This was a big loaf 2 pounds, 5 ounces of dough. Loaves this large need to rest for 90 minutes after shaping, and they tend to need extra time in the oven.  For this size, a lean dough needs 45 to 60 minutes at 450 degrees F, and enriched doughs will need about an hour at 350.  Or more.  Go by the loaf color and the firmness of the crust:

Have a great fall, and follow us on Twitter, and on Facebook too…  In case you don’t win, the products are on Amazon:  Red Star Yeast bulk package, the Chicago Metallic Loaf pans:  one-pounder or the one-and-one-half pounder, or the Danish dough whisk.

Got camping stove? Got flatbread! Plus, bread in the shape of Minnesota…


This Labor Day weekend is summer’s last hurrah for those of us in Minnesota (more on that in a minute).  I’m just back from a fantastic camping trip, and as always, we did our flatbread in a cast-iron or other heavy skillet, right on the camping stove (I’ve always used the Coleman).  You can use any lean dough, either from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, or from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Your skillet must have a cover, but that’s about all the equipment you’ll need.  This is pretty similar to the naan we do in Artisan Bread, and at this link here on the website.

We Minnesotans pride ourselves on taking winter in stride.  The other thing we seem to have pride in is the shape of our state– it seems to work its way into road signs and even macaroni and cheese pasta shapes.  So with great delight, I reveal to you:  grilled bread in THE SHAPE OF MINNESOTA:

OK, it was an accident. My wife claims that this does not really resemble the state:

Well, use a little poetic license, especially for the Arrowhead region? Other posts on grilled or summer breads are at: (more…)

Crisp thin crackers– outside on the grill, NEW VIDEO

First off, sorry for the loud cricket sounds– couldn’t do anything about that, because…

It’s still summer, and I’m still grilling bread, but I wanted to show how to roll dough exceptionally thin for crackers use the outdoor grill as an oven.  The key with crackers is to prevent them from getting scorched.  In Artisan Bread in Five and Healthy Bread in Five we talk about doing crackers at in the 375 – 400 degree F. range (190 – 200 C), and that definitely helps prevent scorching.  You can also use oil on the crackers, and that helps too.  But oil does increase the baking time– my crackers took 20 to 30 minutes to get crisp. And that range depends on whether you get them truly paper-thin.  The thicker ones take a little longer.  So be more patient than I am and get it to less than 1/16-inch thickness– you should almost be able to see through it.

Equipment links:  To temper the grill’s heat (adjust the burners to yield a 375 to 400), I used a baking stone and also a thick commercial-grade aluminum baking sheet.  Recently, I switched to a thin non-handled rolling pin– the French milled style pin, and I feel that it’s easier to control, especially when you’re rolling very thinly.

One other tip: If you bake large flat crackers and don’t cut them before baking, “dock” (puncture) them with a fork before baking or they might puff, which you don’t want with pita.

The idea of crackers has always to have a crisp dried result that stored well– as you can see in the video, these didn’t last long enough to test the theory.  And remember:  serious bakers wear closed-toe footwear!

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Buns for Hot Dogs or Bratwurst, Baked Outside on the Gas Grill!

The heat wave isn’t nearly as bad in Minnesota as it is in on the East coast, but I can’t say that I’m itching to fire up the oven and bake fresh buns for hot dogs or bratwurst.  It’s a cinch to do it on the same grill that you use for your hot dogs or bratwurst, and this video shows you how.  Use any lean dough from either of our books, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, or Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. If anything in the video’s unclear, just visit back and post a question into the “Comments” field.

One word of caution:  I can’t vouch for the durability of baking stones placed on a gas grill.  I haven’t had any trouble with my half-inch thick stone but the thin ones crack at the drop of a hat.  My guess is that if you call any stone manufacturer, they will tell you not to do this.  None of them warrant stones against cracking (one company did in the past, but they’ve withdrawn that).   I haven’t been listening.

This summer, the son of one of our book’s first testers started a bread business and is delivering bread door to door, by bicycle, right here in Minneapolis.  Check out Bicycle Bread… They were recently featured in the Southwest Journal and were on TV, on Fox9 News (click here to view).

Another interesting little home-town business is the Gourmet Girls, who are making fresh breads using our books as the recipe resource.  Send an e-mail to inquire about homemade artisan bread via local delivery (southern Westchester County, NY).

Click here if you’d like to see the list of past postings on summer grill-breads again… (more…)

Left the dough on the counter overnight! Can I still use it?

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After mixing the dough, our recipes only require two hours at room temperature for their initial rise (assuming you’ve used lukewarm water); then the container goes into the refrigerator where it can be stored for up to two weeks (depending on the recipe). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the answer to this question depends on whether or not there were eggs in the recipe. Their website says that eggs should be refrigerated after two hours at room temperature (see their website, scroll down to relevant section).

For our doughs without eggs, when we’ve occasionally forgotten a batch and left it on the counter overnight, we’ve found that this has little effect on the final result, maybe just shortens the batch life by a day or two. If you find that you aren’t getting enough rise in two hours for non-egg dough rising at room temperature, you can go longer.

So, what would USDA recommend if you’re doing a long rise with dough containing eggs? Sounds like the first two hours are safe at room temperature, then into the refrigerator to complete the rising. We leave it to our readers to decide about how to handle egg doughs in light of USDA’s recommendation.

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

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How we measure our flour using the “scoop-and-sweep” method

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When people write to tell us that their dough seems “too wet,” the first question I ask is: how are you measuring?  Because we measured with the “scoop-and-sweep” method, not the “spoon-and-sweep” method.–view the video to see exactly how we do it.

American recipes usually are based on volumes, measured with standardized measuring cups.  If you press down into the flour bin (use a flour bin, not the flour’s bag), you’ll compress and get too much flour.  If you use the “spoon-and-sweep” method, where a spoon is used to gently fill the measuring cup before sweeping, you’ll get too little flour into the cup.  Likewise, don’t “aerate” the flour by mixing it or whisking before measuring; that will lighten the cup.

If you do it the way we tested it (and use flours like the standard ones we tested with), you’ll get results like you see in our photos and videos.  You can also consider weighing flour, using the weight equivalents that appear in all our books starting in 2009. There’s more about using weighing flour in this post; I use this scale.

Side issue: ignore what I said in the video (made some years ago) about bleached flour absorbing less water than unbleached–it’s not true anymore. Modern bleaching doesn’t include anything that decreases protein content. We prefer unbleached flour just to avoid the chemicals and because we love the richer color of the crumb that you get with unbleached, but it won’t affect the measuring or the ability to absorb water.

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Traditional recipes: How can they be converted to the ABin5 method?

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People sometimes ask us for simple formulas for converting traditional bread recipes to our stored-dough method.  Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to the question.  Developing recipes for our books takes lots (and lots) of trial and error.

If we put our our testing methods and approaches up here on the web, our publisher would kill us!  If you want to try to convert a traditional recipe to our high-moisture, stored-dough method, read through our books or check out our recipes here on the website to get a sense of the moisture level that’s needed, then check out the rest of the FAQs here on the website.  Pay attention to our “videos” tab as well.  It may take a bit of work, but you should be able to transform your existing repertoire.

Happy experimenting! More details on our method in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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