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I'm a busy stay-at-home mommy of a 2 year old monst-- er toddler. This is a blog about stuff I like to cook, including recipes and pictures. <3

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The Amazing, Fool-Proof, Life-Changing, Artisan Bread?
Thursday, September 20, 2007 | Time: 1:33 PM

While getting my hair done at TiGi last week, I found this unusual article in Vogue magazine – about making BREAD of all things! This article claims that one can make a fabulous loaf, by hand, with about as much effort as it takes to load a bread machine and turn it on, if a little more time. Of course I'm intrigued by this notion – any way to make something amazing with little or no effort is interesting to me – being a bit bread/baking obsessed already, this really fueled the flames of my curiosity.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find a (free) version of this article online, though for about $5 you can get the NYTimes version, including step by step videos and photos.
The article I (inconspicuously tore out and took home *ahem) found in Vogue was way in the back and had no pictures at all. But the writing was practically poetry, about just the gorgeousness of bread, the smells, textures and flavors, that gorgeous milky caramel color.. its enough to make anyone a wanna-be connoisseur in 5 minutes.
I love the very first sentence in the article 'This story may well change your life.'
Basically, you put all the ingredients together, mix just enough to incorporate, and let rise for 18-24 hours. Give it a nice little loaf shape, and bake! Super easy, folks.
Unfortunately, I'm much too lazy to copy the entire 3.5 page article here, but here's the crème of it:

3 cups bread flour
2 tsp fine salt
1 tsp. Instant yeast
1 1/2 cups water, room temperature
Coarse wheat bran (I used corn meal)
Special Equipment:
A heavy casserole dish
A coarse dish towel or piece of canvas

Using your fingers or a sturdy wooden spoon, thoroughly combine the first three ingredients in a 2quart bowl. Pour in the water. Again, with fingers or spoon, work the dry ingredients and water together for about 30 seconds until a rough wet dough has formed and all the flour has been absorbed.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise at warm room temperature for about 18 hours. Then, heavily flour your work surface. With a plastic dough scraper, or your hands, invert the bowl over the floured surface as you pull out the dough, which will spread into an amoebiform blob. Dust it with flour and stretch it into a rough square, about 10 inches per side. Fold the square in thirds. It will now be a puffy strip about 4 inches wide and 10 inches long. Cover lightly and let rest for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, spread the dish towel on a flat surface. Rub generous amount of flour onto one half of the towel, and sprinkle several tablespoons of bran (or cornmeal) over the flour. This is to prevent the dough from sticking to the tweol, an occurrence that can ruin your life.
Fold the dough in thirds again, beginning at one of the short ends of the strip. The resulting package of dough should be nearly the shape of a cube.
Delicately brush off excess flour from the dough, and with your palms, very gently stretch the top layer part way down over the seams visible on two sides of the dough. With both hands, gently lift the dough onto the middle of the half dish towel you've just prepared. Sprinkle the top of the dough, now really a loaf, with a little flour and bran. Cover with the other half of the towel or plastic wrap. Let rise for 2 hours.
Halfway through, put the casserole and its cover in the oven, and turn the temperature to its highest setting, probably 500-550F degrees.
When another hour has passed, open the oven and remove the casserole cover. Slide your hand under the towel where the loaf is resting, lift up towel and loaf, bring them over to the casserole, and, steadying the loaf with your other hand, invert it into the casserole. Pull of the towel. Shake the casserole sideways if loaf needs to be neatened. Cover the casserole, close the over, and bake for 30 minutes.
Uncover casserole and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes until the loaf is a handsome dark brown. Remove the loaf and let it cool on a rack until its barely warm to the touch.

As seen in both the New York Times – The Minimalist column -
The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work by Mark Bittman (November 8, 2006) and in Vogue magazine 'Easy Riser' by James Wojcik (May 2007)

My Results:
First off, this is one of the most gorgeous loaves of bread I have ever baked. It looks totally professional! I let it cool on the rack as directed, and I loved that while it was cooling, (I guess the cornmeal on it?) starting popping and crackling and giving off this wonderful smell of perfect yummy bread! I didn't cook it until it was 'dark' brown, just a nice deep golden, because I worried it would burn on the bottom.
Also, I pulled the lid off at about 20 minutes because I realized my 'casserole' dish had a rubber stopper on the lid that was giving off a bad smell :/ hopefully not a harmful one, to me or the bread flavor.
The dish I used was really just an old cast iron type soup pot, but it looked convincingly sturdy enough to go in the oven. Maybe I'll check my local thrift shop for a proper dish next time, though.
Taste test:
The flavor was pretty good, cooking it till it was darker might have been a better idea to give it a little richer flavor. Unfortunately I did detect a tiny hint of rubber flavor from that lid :( [We shall be picking up a new dish to cook in promptly.] So i did the butter test, and as soon as I bit into that crusty buttery slice.. i was like 'oh hell yeah!'. Cant go wrong with some good ol fashioned Smart Balance slathered all over a nice warm peice of gorgeous yum yum!
Thick, chewy crust. Soft spongy middle. And cooked all the way through this time! :)
An excellent loaf, if i say so myself. I shall make this many times!
Whoever said 'man cannot live on bread alone' was obviously not eating the right kind of bread.

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