My mother introduced me to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day a month or so ago, and it has now become affectionately known in our family as ABIFMAD. I gather the authors, Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg, refer to it as AB-in-5. It really doesn’t matter what anyone calls it, the important thing is that this bread is fantastic.
Fantastic and simple.
I love bread. I love good bread and was paying a whopping $8 a loaf when Alan and I lived in the States. And that was several years ago. God only knows what it’s going for now. Since moving here I have made bread and bagels but could never accomplish what I used to buy in the artisan bakeries up north. But it was either make it or do without.
Costa Rica is a wonderful country for many things, but bread isn’t one of them. In fact, their bread stinks. My mother once described it as feeling and tasting like “blown up soda crackers.” To be fair, the last few years have shown a bit of improvement but only because of all the Italian expats here. There are places to find a decent baguette, but the vast majority of Costa Rican bread remains the infamous Bimbo– the Latin version of Wonder Bread–or the blown-up-soda-cracker bread my mother remembers so fondly.
Because of her, and the authors of ABIFMAD, I am now making wonderful artisan bread. It is chewy and fragrant, and the crust, as my father likes to say, fights back. It wasn’t an instantaneous success story, but that is only because I cannot locate (easily) unbleached flour, which absorbs water at a different rate than bleached flour, and I had to adjust a bit because of the humidity here. But my third batch came out perfectly, and I might add that none of my efforts have been throw-aways. By perfect I mean that the crumb was light and shot with air holes, the crust crackly and crunchy, and the flavor yeasty and full-bodied. BREAD!
The recipe is so easy it’s ridiculous and everyone should be baking their own bread from now on. Essentially, the discoverer of this method, Jeff Hertzberg, a doctor, is lazy–by his own admission– and he was looking for a way to bake bread without all the fuss. He mixed all the ingredients together threw it in a container and let it rise for two hours and stuck it in the fridge. When he wanted to bake a loaf he simply pulled off a wad of dough, let it rise, and then baked it on a pizza stone in a very hot oven, Voila!
One batch makes four loaves and will sit in the fridge for up to two weeks, When you want bread pull off a wad and bake it. I’m sure he had failures before this incredible discovery, but we are all now the beneficiaries of his efforts.
I have improvised a bit. I have no pizza stone, so I use a cast iron skillet. My dough tends to spread rather that rise in this humid climate so I put it on parchment paper and let it rise inside a proper sized pot; now it goes up instead of out. Then I transfer it to the skillet when it’s time to bake.
Today for lunch we had a roasted tomato slice and mozzarella cheese with pesto drizzled over it, a tossed salad with romaine lettuce and arugula, and a small fillet of salmon…