Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sweet indulgence

I make nearly all of our family's bread. Once upon a time, I had a bread machine and spent years with the strangest shaped sandwiches. :) We fondly called our machine 'R2D2' because it was a squat dome. Then came a tragedy--R2D2 stopped working. They didn't sell the same machine anymore, so we bought a newer one. This one made square breads and had all sorts of bells and whistles.

I didn't like the bread as well as my old workhorse, so I started looking at how to make bread the old fashioned way.

Well, almost.

I read about using a food processor to do most of the work and used that for a year or so. Then I realized that cleaning up said food processor took more time than using it saved.

So I started making bread the old-old fashioned way. By hand.

Because bread takes about 4+ hours of time (though probably less than 15 minutes of actual work time), I baked several loaves on sundays. The bread would never last until the next sunday.

Last year, I discovered "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." It's a no-knead, highly hydrated dough that you can make ahead and store for 2 weeks in the fridge. Making fresh bread is as simple as pulling off a hunk of dough, shaping it briefly, and baking it. (The authors keep a blog here.)

There is a lot of criticism of this method amongst bread bakers--many say that the bread is bland and gummy. I've found that the bread I make using this method is somewhere between a crusty french bread and a sourdough. For sheer convenience, this has become my routine bread.

Now onto the indulgence part of the post.

My sons love pan au chocolate. It's something they learned about on our first trip to Quebec. I've seen bread recipes with chocolate, but by and large, they all seem too sweet to me. I don't want my bread to be cake-like.

I already use my standard dough to make a cinnamon loaf, so I thought why not try chocolate chips instead.

For the first loaf, I rolled out the dough, spread it with melted butter and covered liberally with semi-sweet chocolate chips. I rolled the loaf up, sealed the ends, and baked in a loaf pan.

The taste--heaven. The slightly sour bread makes a perfect vehicle for the chocolate. My family concurred. The only problem was that the loaf fell apart when cut.

My variation is now to fold in the chips as I shape the loaf to have a more cohesive finished product.


No-Knead Sour Bread with Chocolate
(based on Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois)

3 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 cups unbleached white flour
2 cups KA white whole wheat flour

(This will make up to 4 loaves of bread and can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks)

In a *large* bowl, sprinkle yeast and salt over the water. Mix in (use a wooden spoon) all the flour. The resulting dough should be loose and shaggy, but not 'gloopy'. Basically, just too wet to want to kneed, but not as wet as batter. Feel free to adjust water/flour if your dough seems either too wet or too dry. This dough is quite forgiving, as long as you don't overwork it.

Cover bowl loosely and set on your counter for at least 2 hours. (The longer you let it sit, the more flavorful the bread will be) The dough will bubble up/rise nicely.

Pop the bowl in the fridge for at least an hour before you want to use it. Trust me--it's way easier to handle this dough if it has been refrigerated.

Take your prepared dough from the fridge. Sprinkle a handful of flour over the top of the dough and over a wooden board.

Pull up a grapefruit sized hunk of dough, cut it away from the rest of the stuff in the bowl.

Gently ease the top edge of the dough underneath the ball in your hands, turning the ball a quarter turn to smooth out the skin all around. Don't overwork the dough. You only want it less sticky so you can shape it.

Place it on a floured board and roll out or press the dough to a flattened square.

Toss a handful of chocolate chips on the dough. Fold it in half. Turn and flip over. Flatten again into square. Repeat with more chocolate.

I do this 3 times. (Lots of chocolate.)

Shape into rectangular loaf, place in a greased loaf pan.

Cover prepared loaf, let rise at room temp 30-60 minutes, bake at preheated 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

Cover prepared loaf, pop into the fridge (I usually prepare the loaf after dinner, let it sit overnight in the fridge). In the morning, uncover loaf, set pan in COLD oven, turn to 425 degrees, bake for 25-30 minutes.

Let cool or the interior will be gummy.


  1. Hi again LJ: I'm Jeff Hertzberg, one of the co-authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Thanks for making our stuff your default bread, and for coming up with your own variations. Most people end up liking our approach; the only trouble we have is with very experienced bakers who either 1) make the bread right after mixing (without aging) and miss the sourdough flavor, and/or 2) over-handle or knead the dough once it's fully risen. So long as you watch for that, most people love the flavor and don't end up with a gummy result.

    Come visit us anytime at, where you can post questions into any "Comments" field, or into the "Bread Questions" gateway on the left side of the homepage.

    Jeff Hertzberg

  2. Hi Jeff--yes, I'm already a visitor to your blog and I put a link to it in my post. It did take a while for me to stop overhandling the dough using your method. Had to unlearn years of kneading.

    Thanks for coming by.


  3. thanks for this wonderful post. my wife will learn a lot from here.