Getting To Know My Inner Little Red Hen

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Books, Food and Drink, Locavore, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Tips | Posted on 12-01-2009


by Shauna Lawyer Struby

I have a confession – I’ve never been very good at making yeasty-type bread. Try as I might, bread-making efforts in my 30-plus years of cooking have resulted in heavy loaves that more closely resemble bricks. I’ve suffered great guilt about my lack of yeasty prowess, and over the last few years, as sustainability has turned our minds to learning how to do things for ourselves again, or ‘reskilling’ as it is sometimes called, I’ve dreaded the day when the next thing to do on my self-sufficiency to-do list would be learning to make bread.

Praise to the Goddess of Yeasty Muses, fortunately for me a couple of bright folk, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, of Minneapolis, found a way to make bread that makes my bread-making deficiency moot. For about the past three weeks I’ve been using their Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method (also featured in the December 2008/January 2009 issue of Mother Earth News magazine). As Hertzberg & Francois note, the secret to their method is amazingly simple. Here’s what Hertzberg says about it in the Mother Earth News article:

“It all came down to one fortuitous discovery: Pre-mixed, pre-risen, high-moisture dough keeps well in the refrigerator.”

As a result of their discovery, I am happy to report I can now make beautiful, crusty loaves of bread that look like they belong on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine. Beyond the looks, the bread is moist on the inside and has that delicious multi-dimensional flavor so prized in bread-making. As an added bonus, the dough which is mixed and stored ahead of the baking process, can be used to quickly make pizza crust and a whole host of other delectable meals, breads and pastry delights, making it a great kitchen aid for busy folk with little time for meal prep.

So far I’ve only experimented with the bread and pizza, and at every holiday outing where I lugged either item, both brought rave reviews. But here’s the real icing on the cake (uh, bread) – the method’s authors estimate the cost is about $0.50 per loaf.

The method is easy, simple and really does take very little time. There’s no kneading or punching. The five minutes a day refers to the actual time you’re actively involved with the dough shaping and getting it ready to bake. The bread is easily made with equipment any kitchen has on hand, although I did purchase a food-grade container to keep my pre-mixed dough in the refrigerator, and my guess is the recommended baking stone and pizza peel would take the final product to the next level. The article in Mother Earth News gives you the basic recipe and process but there’s also a book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking, which goes into much greater detail with tips and techniques, and a bundle of recipes for peasant loaves, flatbreads and pizzas, and enriched breads and pastries.

 To add some sustainability to this process, last week I took organic hard red winter wheat berries I purchased from GOOrganic Whole Wheat through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative and ground the berries in our coffee grinder using the espresso setting which rendered a fine wheat flour. I doubt this will work for grinding large quantities of flour long-term, but until I settle on a wheat mill, it will do.

And about the Little Red Hen – I think she was on to something. Eating this bread is not only a pleasure-filled tasting sensation, but it brings a dimension of wholeness, comfort and security to our lives. Comfort in the aroma and taste of baking bread, wholeness and security in knowing our bread is made from healthy ingredients. Here’s to finding your own inner Little Red Hen.

Comments (7)

and it IS great bread. I was honored to be at Shauna’s for dinner thorugh the holidays, and YUM. Good hot bread for me is the core of the family meal. thanks shauna

Aww Ron, thank you!

Isn’t that an amazing recipe? Who knew beautiful, delicious bread could be so easy? Now just add some Wagon Creek Creamery butter, and you’ve got a full meal!
You have reminded me of my intent to purchase a grinder and buy wheat berries through the OK Food Coop. I’d not thought of trying first with our coffee bean grinder. :)) I’ll watch your blog to see which wheat mill you choose.

I tried the basic recipe (using all-purpose flour), which I found online. How does it work with the whole wheat? Did you have to mix the whole wheat flour with all-purpose? I’ve got plenty of wheat berries from the Cattle Tracks folks, and I’d like to put them to use for something tastier than my super-duper hand-crafted artisan bricks. :-)

Linda — Yes! It is an amazing recipe and I love the flexibiilty of being able to use it for other meal options (the recipes in the book expand greatly on the concept). Other uses for this amazing bread: A hearty thank-you gift to friends, a perk-me-up gift to those who are sick or who need encouraging, a delectable snack for noshing on at meetings.
Nikki G. — The 100-percent whole-wheat recipe in the book works, however, be aware of how your oven temperature may vary. The book says ovens can vary as much 50 degrees in either direction.
Mine oven runs hot and I forgot to turn it down when I made the 100-percent whole-wheat recipe. Consequently, although the bread’s interior was moist and had a savory, nutty flavor, the crust was a bit hard. I think lowering the oven temp will help with this — just have to remember to do it ;-).
The book also has a light wheat bread recipe that’s quite delicious, as well as tips for correcting problems you find as you experiment with the different breads and dishes.

A question about the bread: I’ve tried it once and it is pretty dense and gummy in the center. Any hints that might make fix this problem. I love the concept so i’m hoping I can get the recipe right. Thanks!!

Might be an oven temperature issue, i.e. if you’re setting it at the temperature the recipe suggests, and it’s not quite done, your oven may run cooler. In that case try upping the temperature 25 degrees and see if it corrects the issue. Or if you don’t want to mess with the temperature, leave the bread in five minutes longer than the recipe calls for.
The book has a section on tips and hints on how to fix various issues you encounter in making the bread, so if you’re serious about using this method on an ongoing basis, it’d be well worth the investment to get the book.