The Shrinking Bread Saga Part II

Last week I wrote about going to a bakery and seeing artisan bread being sold by the half loaf for $5.50. An $11.00 loaf of bread? Preposterous! A while back, my friend Ellie lent me her book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” and suddenly I was motivated to read it and make a loaf or two for myself.

I followed the instructions which were ridiculously simple. Warm three cups water to 110⁰; add 1½ tablespoons each rapid-rise yeast and kosher salt, mix in 6½ cups of all-purpose flour, let rise until double, refrigerate for at least one day and up to fourteen (it’s better with age). No kneading required! When it’s time to bake, pull off a chunk, shape into a loaf and rise for thirty minutes. While the dough rises, put a pizza stone and a small baking dish into a 450⁰ oven. When the loaf is done rising, score the top, put a cup of water into the baking dish to make the oven steam, pop the dough onto the pizza stone and bake for 40 minutes. That’s all!

I anxiously awaited my first loaf and resisted my urge to open the oven door every five minutes to peek, and I did it only twice. I knew the bread was almost finished baking when the kitchen exploded with an intoxicating aroma. Off went the timer at forty minutes and when I opened the door I was filled with joy. The bread did indeed look like artisan bread, of the kind found at fancy bakeries. The crust was a crispy golden brown. Would it taste as good as it looked?

While the loaf was still warm, I cut the first slice and smeared it with Irish butter. Something indescribably lovely came with the experience – the bite had a feeling of completeness. The bread’s appearance, warmth and aroma along with a feeling of accomplishment created an almost spiritual experience. I certainly never felt that when I went to a bakery, brought a loaf home and toasted it. This E-Z homemade artisan bread was better than I ever imagined and took almost no effort.

Because I was still shell – shocked about an $11.00 loaf of bread, I calculated the cost. The batch of dough made enough for two big loaves and the flour, yeast and salt for each was only $1.02 (I bought a pound of yeast at the US Chef’s store for only $5.59). I ate the entire loaf of bread with wild abandon in less than 24 hours and couldn’t wait to make it again. Maybe I should make half loaves since I obviously have little restraint!