Thursday, October 1, 2009

200 Fast & Easy Artisan Breads

With the holidays just around the corner our thoughts turn to heavenly culinary creations fresh from the oven. And nothing smells better than freshly baked bread. But for many of us, just thinking about baking a loaf of bread seems too time-consuming. First you have to mix the ingredients; then you have to knead the dough; let it rise; and then bake. This process, while seemingly simple, can take hours and sometimes days.

Best-selling cookbook author Judith Fertig, reveals secrets to creating and baking incredible artisan breads in her new book: 200 FAST & EASY ARTISAN BREADS (Robert Rose; September 2009; Softcover/$24.95; ISBN: 978-0-7788-0212-9). Judith’s secret? Artisan bread dough can be created in about five minutes, simply by combining the ingredients, along with instant, or bread machine yeast, in one bowl.

The “fast” part of the 200 FAST & EASY ARTISAN BREADS title means that hands-on activity (not including rising, resting, or baking time) with these breads is only minutes a day. You can make the dough one day, and then form and bake it in the days afterwards. The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. When you are ready to bake your bread, simply cut off enough dough for a loaf, let rise, and bake…it’s fast and easy!

“Artisan bread baking, with its time-honored tradition and classic forms and methods, has seen a recent surge of revision. Baking experts and bread bloggers are taking old recipes and giving them new life,” explains Judith Fertig. “As a cookbook author, culinary instructor, and vocational baker, I’ve questioned, challenged, and tested my way to the best methods for baking artisan-quality breads in an easier, more achievable and rewarding activity for busy people.”

In her recipes, Judith uses a sequential, step-by-step approach known as “benchmarking.” With each recipe, home bakers learn and master new techniques, ensuring success every time with recipes such as:
§ Fig and Gorgonzola Swirl Loaf
§ Easy Artisan Focaccia with Rosemary
§ Whole Wheat Pita Bread
§ Honey Pumpkin Bread
§ Slow-Rise Sourdough Bread
§ Braided Challah
§ Cinnamon Raisin Pecan Bread
§ Caraway Rye Tart with Ham and Gruyère
§ Rustic French Boule
§ Amish Pinwheel Bread
§ New York Bagels
§ Danish Bear Claws
§ Chocolate Swirl Bread

Beginners or master bakers will find that 200 FAST & EASY ARTISAN BREADS covers everything you need to know to create perfect bread every time. Judith covers topics such as:
§ basic equipment
§ making the dough ahead of time
§ how to master easy dough methods
§ knowing when your bread is done
§ creating complements to bread such as artisan butter and caramelized onions
§ Judith’s “Ten Basic Steps to Artisan Bread”

With no mess, one bowl, and very little time, home bakers can achieve glorious bakery results in the comfort of their kitchen. If you can bake a batch of brownies from a box mix, you are ready for 200 FAST & EASY ARTISAN BREADS.

About the Author

Trained at the prestigious La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine and Le Cordon Bleu, Judith Fertig is a talented food writer, cooking instructor, and product spokesperson. She is also one of the best-trained barbecue experts in the country. Boasting a “Doctor of Barbecue Philosophy” degree from Greasehouse University, Judith believes “food tells a story that appeals to all senses” and seeks to bring to life — both on the page and on stage — our shared and delectable love of food. She has been featured in Bon Appetit, Saveur, Better Homes & Gardens, Cooking Light, Food & Wine, Country Living, The New York Times Syndicate, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Kansas City Star. She is the author of Prairie Home Cooking, Prairie Home Breads, and All-American Desserts. She is also one-half of the famous “BBQ Queens” best-selling cookbook duo with Karen Adler; their latest book is 300 Big & Bold BBQ & Grill Recipes.

Sample Recipes from the Book

Master Recipe #1 Easy Artisan Dough

This first master recipe introduces you to the basics of the Easy Artisan bread method. As you begin to make bread, all of this will get even easier. You won’t have to check the temperature of the water, as you’ll know what lukewarm feels like. You’ll get quite good at forming the various types of loaves and sliding them onto the hot baking stone. You’ll be able to tell by how fast the temperature rises on the instant read thermometer — when your bread reaches 190°F (90 °C) and is done. Your artisan loaves will have a crisp, darkened crust, a tender and moist crumb, and a mellow, toasty flavor — all with this easy method. The dough will also make delicious rolls, pizza, or flatbread.

Makes bread, rolls, pizza, or flatbread to serve 12 to 16

Measuring cups and spoons
Instant read thermometer
16-cup bowl
Wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk
3-sided cookie sheet, flexible cutting board, or baker’s peel
Baking stone
Broiler pan

6-1/2 cups (1.575 L) unbleached all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
1-1/2 tablespoon (22 mL) instant or bread machine yeast
1-1/2 tablespoon (22 mL) fine table or kosher salt
3 cup (750 mL) lukewarm water, about 100°F (38 °C)
1/4 cup (50 mL) cornmeal or polenta for sprinkling
2 cups (500 mL) hot water for broiler pan

Measure. Spoon the flour into a measuring cup, level with a knife or your finger, then dump the flour into a large mixing bowl.

Mix. Add the yeast and salt to the flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk. Pour in the water and stir together until just moistened. Beat 40 strokes, scraping the bottom and the sides of the bowl, until the dough forms a lumpy, sticky mass.

Rise. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature 72°F (22 °C) for 2 hours or until the dough has risen near the top of the bowl and has a sponge-like appearance.

Use Right Away or Refrigerate. Use that day or place the dough, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 9 days before baking.

Combining 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) hot with 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) cold tap water will result in lukewarm water approximately 100°F (38 °C).


Before storing the dough in the refrigerator, use a permanent marker to write the date on the plastic wrap, so you’ll know when you made your dough — and when to use it up 9 days later.

Flatbread with Caramelized Onion and Brie

As an entrée for a casual meal or cut into squares for an appetizer, this flatbread always gets rave reviews.

Makes 1 flatbread to serve 4 as an entrée, 8 as an appetizer

8-inch (2 L) square baking pan or dish
Baking stone
Instant read thermometer
1/4 recipe prepared Easy Artisan Dough
Unbleached, all-purpose flour for dusting
1 cup prepared caramelized onion
8 ounces brie, cut into 1-inch pieces, rind on
2 cups hot water for broiler pan

Form. To form the flatbread, remove a fourth of the dough—about the size of a softball—with a serrated knife and a dough scraper. The remaining dough in the bowl will deflate somewhat. Transfer the dough portion to a floured surface and dust very lightly with flour. Flour your hands. Working the dough as little as possible and adding flour as necessary, pat the dough into an 8-inch/20 cm square. Lightly flour any sticky places on the dough. The dough should feel soft and smooth all over, like a baby’s skin, but not at all sticky.

Rest. Grease an 8-inch (2 L) square baking pan or dish. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and pat to fit. Use a fork to spread the Caramelized Onion over the top of the flatbread, then dot with brie. Cover with a tea towel and let rest at room temperature for 40 minutes.

Prepare Oven for Artisan Baking. About 30 minutes before baking, place a broiler pan on the lower shelf and a baking stone on the middle shelf of the oven. Preheat to 450°F (230 °C).

Dimple Flatbread with the Handle End of a Wooden Spoon. When ready to bake, the dough will not have risen much, but will finish rising dramatically in the oven. Using the handle end of a wooden spoon, dimple the flatbread at 2-inch/5 cm intervals.

Slide Flatbread onto Baking Stone and Add Water to Broiler Pan. Using an oven mitt, carefully pull the middle rack of the oven out several inches. Place the pan of flatbread on the hot stone. Pull the lower rack out, pour the hot water into the broiler pan, and push the lower rack back in place. Close the oven door immediately so the oven will envelop the steam.

Bake. Bake for 25 to 27 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Change It Up:
For Heirloom Tomato Flatbread, prepare the flatbread recipe through the “Form” Step. Place the flatbread in the prepared pan, dimple the dough with handle of a wooden spoon, then top with 8 fresh basil leaves. Arrange 1 cup (250 mL) chopped fresh heirloom tomato (try using golden or orange heirlooms) on top of the basil. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly grated Parmesan and drizzle with 2 tablespoons (25 mL) olive oil. Bake for 25 to 27 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned.

Recipes from 200 FAST & EASY ARTISAN BREADS by Judith Fertig
(Robert Rose, September 2009, Softcover/$24.95)

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