peasant bread

How to Make a 2-pound Loaf

In Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day we suggest baking a 1-pound loaf and give detailed instructions for making this smallish bread. It seems like a nice size loaf for a family of 4 to eat in a day. On some occasions you may want to bake a larger loaf and it requires a few adjustments to our recipe. Here are step by step instructions for baking a 2-pound free form loaf. Continue reading

Watching Dough Rise – how high should it go? (Plus, a new member of the Bread in Five family)

We have you mix up your dough in a nice big 6-Quart Food-Storage Container, because over the course of 2 hours it will grow to nearly touch the lid.  Some folks have asked exactly what that should look like, so I mixed up a batch of each Master recipe from ABin5 and HBin5, then sat back and watched them rise. I promise this is more fun than watching paint dry, it will show you exactly what your dough should look like and I’ve set it to a little Johnny Cash (Ooops, apparently I can’t do that. Had to switch to something with a little less….copyright).

We also have an exciting announcement to make, especially for those Brits who are baking our bread or people excited to bake with weights.

Our first book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day was translated for British bakers. Yes, it is still in English, but the recipes are converted to weights. They appear in both ounces and metrics. For those of you Americans excited to bake by weights this will be a welcome edition. The book’s title and look are also changed, but the recipes are the same. Five Minute Bread is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.UK and will be on bookstore shelves in January 2011.

Also check out the holiday bread article Jeff and I wrote for Disney’s Family Fun Magazine.

Happy Baking!

Underbaked! My loaf didn’t bake through to the center. What am I doing wrong?

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When we talk with people with a loaf-center that won’t bake through, it’s almost always one of these explanations:

  1. The oven temperature is off: Usually it’s running too hot, and the outside looks brown before the center is baked through.  But a low oven temperature can fool you too– you think you’ve baked long enough, but it’s actually running 50 degrees too cool.  Home ovens can be off by 50 to 75 degrees F, so check with an inexpensive oven thermometer like this one on Amazon.
  2. Inadequate oven and stone pre-heat: This can be an issue for really large ovens and thick baking stones. Some professional-style ovens (Wolf and Viking, for example) may need up to an hour of pre-heating. If you are using a thick baking stone, it may also need up to an hour of pre-heat. Even thin stones will benefit from a longer preheat.
  3. Measuring flour incorrectly: The most common mistake is that someone isn’t measuring the way we describe in our books.  We use the standard scoop-and-sweep method.  See our video on this for proper technique.  Do not spoon the flour into the measuring cup before sweeping– if you do, the cup will be too-lightly filled, and the dough will be too wet, leaving you with a center that won’t bake through.  Consider weighing flour if you want to get away from the uncertainty of volume measurement, see the post…

If you’re really struggling with underbaking, you can try an instant-read thermometer.  For lean breads (no eggs), the temperature at the center of the loaf should be 205 to 210 degrees F (96 to 99 degrees Celsius).  For egg-enriched doughs, the temperature should be about 185 degrees F (85 degrees Celsius).

One other thing– thanks for a great review of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day on Mary Hunt’s EverydayCheapskate.com, click to view.

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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How we measure our flour using the “scoop-and-sweep” method

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When people write to tell us that their dough seems “too wet,” the first question I ask is: how are you measuring?  Because we measured with the “scoop-and-sweep” method, not the “spoon-and-sweep” method.–view the video to see exactly how we do it.

American recipes usually are based on volumes, measured with standardized measuring cups.  If you press down into the flour bin (use a flour bin, not the flour’s bag), you’ll compress and get too much flour.  If you use the “spoon-and-sweep” method, where a spoon is used to gently fill the measuring cup before sweeping, you’ll get too little flour into the cup.  Likewise, don’t “aerate” the flour by mixing it or whisking before measuring; that will lighten the cup.

If you do it the way we tested it (and use flours like the standard ones we tested with), you’ll get results like you see in our photos and videos.  You can also consider weighing flour, using the weight equivalents in “Healthy Bread in Five…” We go through the use of the digital scales (we like the Escali or the Salter) in this post from last year.

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New video: How to shape a loaf (using whole grain dough)

So many of you have asked for close-up video of someone shaping a loaf  (what we called “gluten-cloaking” in the first book).  Doing this quick shaping step is the same with whole grain doughs, but the feel is different– it isn’t quite as resilient.

But as you can see in the video, it’s basically the same process with this 100% whole wheat dough (the honey-enriched variation on page 80 of Healthy Bread in Five Minute a Day).

Back to Basics ~ tips and techniques to create a great loaf in 5 minutes a day.

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Note that there is an updated version of this post, click here to view.

Recently we have seen lots of new readers on the website who are asking wonderful questions about how to perfect their loaves. First I’d like to say welcome to the site and thank you for trying the bread. As I bake through the basic Master recipe from ABin5 I will try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and also introduce you to a few new pieces of equipment I’ve recently started to use that make the whole experience just a little easier.  The goal is to create a large batch of dough that stores in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. That’s why our method saves  you so much time– all the mixing and prep is divided over four one-pound loaves.

Continue reading

Gray color and liquid on my dough: Is there something wrong?

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As your dough stores in the refrigerator, it might develop a uniform gray discoloration and liquid on its surface.  This is not mold and can be safely ignored– it won’t affect the final baked result. You can just pour off the liquid and proceed with the recipe.

If you see patchy light or dark areas on your dough, whether smooth or fuzzy, that could be mold and the dough should be discarded. You are not likely to see mold if you follow our directions for maximum storage life, and keep the dough in the refrigerator.

If the dough has become hard and leathery, that suggests that there’s too much air-space in your container (or that it isn’t sealed well enough).  You can decrease the effect of air that gets into the container by transferring into smaller containers as the dough is getting used up.

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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My shaped loaves don’t seem to rise much before it’s time for the oven. What am I doing wrong?

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In our method, proportionally more of the rise comes from “oven spring,” rather than “proofing.”  Traditional bread methods get more proofing rise than we do.  Proofing is the time that the shaped loaf spends just sitting and waiting for the oven.  Oven spring is the sudden expansion of gasses within the pores of the loaf that occurs upon contact with the hot oven air and the stone or other hot surface that you might be using.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t see a whole lot of rise during proofing with our method. You’ll still get a nice rise during the oven spring, so long as you didn’t over-work the dough while shaping.  Make sure your oven’s up to temperature by checking with a thermometer like this one on Amazon.  If the oven is too cool or too hot, you won’t get proper oven spring.

If you’re still not happy with the final result– if it seems to dense and under-risen, check our our “Dense Crumb” FAQ.

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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Storing bread: What’s the best way?

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We try to make only enough bread to eat on the same day, but if you have leftovers, the best way to store homemade bread is unwrapped and cut-side down on a non-porous surface like a plate, at room temperature (not in the refrigerator).  This preserves the crust a little more than if you put it into a plastic bag, which softens the crust very quickly.  The exception is pita bread, which is soft-crusted in the first place and is great in a plastic bag–but wait till it cools before bagging.

How long can you store bread this way? Maybe 24 hours. You can extend that a little if you put it in a plastic bag (refrigeration optional), and it’s often OK for toasting a day or two later.

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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Nutritional Information for Whole Wheat Flaxseed Bread (or any other recipe in our book)

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Many of you have asked about nutritional information… you can use the SparkRecipe calculator, at http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp, to calculate nutritional content for any of our recipes. The USDA Nutrient Database , at http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/ is also useful.

And to calculate your daily calorie requirement try WebMD’s site: http://www.webmd.com/diet/food-fitness-planner/ 

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