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Artisan Bread - Question on the baked result

I was very excited about the recent thread on Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day. I got the basic recipe on line from NYT and have the book on hold at the library (I'm number 3 in line).

But, I got impatient and using the basic recipe from the NYT, I made a batch yesterday. Super easy to throw together, I covered and let it rise about 2 1/2 hours. The dough really came up fast and was very airy. Following the instructions, I floured the top and though sticky, I found it easy to cut of the described amount and shape it. Since I have neither a stone nor a peel, I used the alternate baking instructions... Shaped the circle into an oval and placed in a greased, non-stick loaf pan. Preheated the oven to 450 degrees with the broiler pan on the floor of the oven, placed the loaf pan on the middle rack, added water to the broiler pan, quickly shut the door and baked for 30 mins. Actually, I went about 35 mins.

The result was a nicely browned loaf that didn't raise up very high, but had a nice thunk when I knocked on it. I let it cool and sliced into it. The crust was crisp but not as thick as I was expecting it. And the interior was very spongy. Not surprising since the risen dough was spongy. I threw the rest of the batch into the refridgerator. This morning, it was still deflated.

Will the baked loaf improve if I age the dough?
Will the unbaked dough rise up again?
Did I do something wrong?

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  1. This might be an oversight, but you don't mention anything about letting the dough rest after shaping and placing in the loaf pan. Did you accidentally skip that step? It might explain why the load wasn't as raised...

    I used to use this recipe, and I found that I needed to lean towards the longer rise, especially during winter, when it tends to be pretty cool in my house. I didn't have a stone or peel, but I didn't like the loaf pan either, so I used an inverted dark, heavy rimmed baking sheet that I'd preheat in the oven, just like you would a stone. Then I'd bake the loaf as if using the pizza stone, except on a piece of parchment.

    In my opinion, the Cooks Illustrated "Almost No Knead Bread 2.0" is an easier, tastier loaf. It's the recipe I use now, instead of the Artisan loaf. It takes longer due to rise time, but the hands-on work load is almost the same. Here's a link to the recipe that I found online:

    2 Replies
    1. re: RosemaryHoney

      Rosemary, Yes, I did let it rest the recommended 40 mins and while it did rise a bit the second time, it wasn't a huge rise.

      Thanks for posting the recipe you use.

      1. re: janetms383

        In the errata, it says to let it rise more like an hour or so, which is what I usually do.

        http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?pa... - I think I usually do the full hour and a half. I've only made the bread using a pizza stone.

    2. i don't think you did anything wrong. i was most disappointed when i made it in a loaf pan, though. so after that, i just baked it on a cookie sheet and it worked just fine. however, my preferred method is to bake a baguette on my couche. it's amazing. i love this bread.

      the dough will improve with age, but it will also not rise as much.

      6 Replies
      1. re: eLizard

        I'm surprised to hear you can just bake it on a cookie sheet. Do you grease and use the cormeal, just the cormeal, or (as Rosemary suggested) parchment?

        The dough was so loose, I thought it would run all over the oven

        1. re: janetms383

          I've baked mine on a turned over cookie sheet. I love the taste, but have had the same flatness in the results. Going to try again ... maybe you've inspired me to try again today.

          1. re: janetms383

            Your concerns are exactly why I like the CI version better. You place the dough on greased parchment and into a frying pan for the second rise, so even though the dough is so loose, it stays in the shape of the frying pan. Then you use the parchment as a sling to lift and drop it into the hot dutch oven. It works really well. I didn't want to buy any new equipement, so I just use my oval 5 qt and it works fine.

            For the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes, I used greased parchment on the inverted baking sheet and did have some spreading, but I still liked it better than the loaf pan. Isn't it fun to do all this trial and error :)

            1. re: janetms383

              i use parchment. i've not had any issue with the spreading or the flatness....but i deflate as little as possible when forming a pretty solid gluten cloak. i let it rise, slash the top, and bake. i spritz with a bit of water sometimes... but really, i almost always make baguette.

              1. re: eLizard

                eLizard, I'm surprised by your comment tht you don't have any issues with spreading. I used a rimmed cookie sheet, shaped the dough in an oval and let it set 1+ hours. The result would have been good for pizza. The loaf had NO shape AT ALL!

                1. re: janetms383

                  I don't really have any issues with spreading. and forgive me if this adds insult to injury....but i cut the yeast by half. the full amount is waaaayyyyy too yeasty for me. and if i use instant yeast, I even less than half. sorry! like i said, though, i most often make it on my couche. but the oven spring is pretty impressive.

          2. When you get the book, search its website for the corrections - there are a number of errors in the book, depending on which printing it is. Maybe a previous use has already done so, but if not, I would put a post-it note on the inside cover with the corrections or the suggestion to check for them on the website.

            My first time ever baking bread was with the Cooks Illustrated version mentioned by RosemaryHoney. I even bought the CI-recommended Best Buy 6.5 qt Tramontina Dutch Oven (Walmart $40) for that purpose (in case my smaller Dutchie wasn't large enough, and I DO use the big one for other things). The loaf was a spectacular success - great crisp crust and airy peasanty interior. I later read that it works in a variety of covered pots but since the high preheat and lid are what create the wonderful spring and crust I am glad I followed CI's recipe to the letter.

            You might also want to consider the super-simple one-pot method of Jacques Pepin's. The only challenge is that not everyone has an appropriate pot. The bread isn't very crusty or high but if you don't mind a long, narrower slice it is tasty and holds up well enough for sandwiches and toast:


            1. I hate this book. It is a charlatan riding on the crest of the wave of others. No secrets here. If you really want some baking insight, then buy Hamelman, Silverberg, Rheinhart, or lots of others.

              Remember that the dough is very wet and thus needs a form to hold it up. Kind of what has happened to my belly over the years, but I will try not to leave off with that image.

              So if you lay it on a sheet pan it will spread out reducing the final height and push.

              If you use some form of mold then the escaping gas will push the molded shape upwards and thus you will get height.

              The dutch oven is great because it is designed to go into the oven in the first place, but look around you kitchen and see if there is not some other device that could serve the same function (large sauce pan, Corningware casserole, etc. Avoid glass as that could break. maybe even a cake pan?

              I have been tempted to try one of my stainless steel mixing bowls, but so far, I have resisted.

              Or you could add more flour, stiffen up the dough and lay out on a sheet pan. But then you will have to learn shaping techniques.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Food Tyrant

                I don't know if I'd go so far as to call the author a charlatan, there are few people who are willing to put in the time and are capable of the level of attention that baking bread requires. I started out with the no-knead recipes and found them lacking in flavor, as I'm used to artisan breads from the bay area. For getting people to attempt bread baking at home I applaud the recent surge in popularity of the no knead and 5 minutes recipes.

                1. re: Food Tyrant

                  I have liked the NY Times no knead bread a little better. For me, it's had a more open crumb, less spongy, and a little better flavor. But I have very much liked this 5-minute-a-day bread. I have liked the crusts very much, quite good flavor and the fact that I can have fresh bread every day without a trip to the bakery by just taking a blob from the refrigerator, letting it rise and baking. This has been a boon to us. Fresh hot good bread without having to go out into the snow to buy fresh stuff.

                2. When I bake in a loaf pan, I roll out the dough to a rectangle with my hands. I made the end as long as the loaf pan. Then roll up and pinch the edge. Put in loaf pan and let rest until it's risen. Slice the top w/ a sharp edged tool (lame or razor is best but I've used s sharp fish knife). Then bake as you did. I get a nice rise.

                  1. Janet,
                    Sounds like I am having the exact same problems as you. I am on my third or fourth batch of dough, and while it tastes fine, I am struggling to get the thick hard crust, rise, or lofty air bubbles inside I would like...
                    I've tried in a loaf pan, in a Cruset and on a stone. The stone seemed the closest to what I wanted but my sister was rushing me to finish dinner so I took it out a bit earlier that I could have. My house is very chilly too--maybe that's part of the problem as someone else mentioned?
                    Also, this may seem like a dumb question--but with dough this loose--how on earth do you properly slash it??? I try to slash it and it just ends up pulling on the knife and getting misshapen...
                    What am I doing wrong?
                    (PS. I am NOT much of a baker, this is my first foray into bread-making so elementary techniques are still new to me...!)

                    19 Replies
                    1. re: tundrah

                      Some tips on slashing:

                      1) Use a very sharp knife--I sharpen mine just before slashing.

                      2) Uncover the dough for 5 minutes or so to let a skin form.

                      3) Coat the knife blade with a little vegetable oil or cooking spray.

                      4) Sprinkle the dough with a little flour first. This dries out the surface and makes it less "grabby."

                      5) Slash decisively! Don't be tentative! It is really hard to slash it too deeply.

                      I have never tried the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes approach specifically. But I have done the Cook's Illustrated version (closer to the NYT approach), and it does give the crust you are looking for when baked at high heat in a hot Le Cruset Dutch oven. However, it doesn't give you the more open crumb you are looking for--I am working on variations to see if I can get this to work (increasing hydration, using a different flour, perhaps giving the dough a few turns, etc.).

                      1. re: tundrah

                        I slashed mine with a razor blade.

                        I too am a breadmaking newbie but a year ago when I followed the CI recipe as written, I got the perfect hard, shatteringly-crisp crust and open crumb. It looked just like the photo in the CI article. The only thing I now do differently is to raise the rack up one level because the bottom crust was close to over-brown. I think preheating the covered Dutch oven thoroughly is likely key to optimizing the rise and crust.

                        1. re: greygarious

                          Can anyone share a link to the CI recipe?

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            It is no longer free on the CI site, but you can sign up for a free 14-day trial membership. It is called "Almost No-Knead Bread" and was in either the Nov/Dec 2007 or Jan/Feb 2008 issue.

                          2. re: greygarious

                            I always do let it sit/rise for a while before slashing, but I will try the flour then oiled extra sharp blade.

                            I will try the CI recipe and see if that does any better, as well as the Pepin (I am intrigued by his second stir/rise--wonder if that will help)?
                            Also, I have a Cruset French Oven, which I did one loaf in w only a bit of olive oil. Removing that one was disastrous. I tend to steer clear of Pam, but maybe I can make an exception in the pursuit of the perfect loaf of bread!

                            And, I did just pull out another loaf. This time on the stone, first on parchment for 25 min, then another 8 min straight on the stone to firm up the bottom. Crust looks better, but its hardly "lofty". I did do this batch with half the yeast (been using the NYT recipe) as the first few were WAY too yeasty for my taste... and this was the end of the batch so naturally it'll be a little flatter.

                            Augh...! So many variables! I need to keep a notebook me thinks...

                            1. re: tundrah

                              Tundrah, Overall, I've found the resulting bread to be very unsatisfactory. I baked a second loaf last night. The dough sat in the fridge for 3 days and I thought the aging would improve the result. No such luck. In fact, I thought the taste of the baked bread suffered from the aging. I warmed up the kitchen and let the loaf rest for almost 3 hours. But I didn't get a better rise and the crust was tough and chewy... not crunchy.

                              I used scissors to slash the top, tried the first loaf with flour, tried the second loaf without... both were hard to slash and the knife didn't work well at all.

                              I used the recipe from the NYT. I have the book on hold at the library. One of the hounds posted a link to corrections. When I get the book, I will try one more time, but honestly, I think I will just go back to kneaded bread because though there is more prep time initally, you get it over and done with and the results are so much better.

                              Why bake bread? .... cause I needed the dough. (My feeble attempt at humor)

                              1. re: janetms383

                                Hah hah. Hah. :)

                                Well I do have to say since I am new at this, I am probably not ~as~ frustrated as you are. I did just cut a slice off my latest cooled loaf, and it is the best yet. Not great yet, but better.

                                I think I will next try the other methods (CI and Pepin) and see if that gets me anywhere.

                                I am still intimidated by all the kneading and rising and temps though of "proper" breadmaking. Do you have a more standard method recipe you really like?

                                Maybe all this practice will make me brave enough to jump to the next level (whether I am ready or not)...

                                1. re: tundrah

                                  I have a friend that whips out loaves of bread like it's nothing. She is the one that taught me. The recipe only uses 4 ingredients. Yeast, salt, water and flour. You knead it in the "green" bowl until it feels right. LOL I just use a large mixing bowl and knead it about 10 - 15 mins until it is smooth, elastic and not sticky. Shape into baguettes and bake about 1 hour. She also uses this bread recipe for her pizza and bakes it before she adds toppings. I think her pizza crust is too thick, but since I'm the guest, and I'm putting the pizza in my mouth, I keep my opinion to myself.

                                  I was really looking for a recipe that would make a bread with a lighter consistency yet still have a good crust. I guess I will need to venture out into the world of "other recipes".

                                  1. re: tundrah

                                    I learned almost everything about bread baking from Ruth Levy Berenbaum's "The Bread Bible." She explains every step in painful detail, and also goes over the logic for each step.

                                    Her approach is, by and large, labour-intensive, which is fine by me most days. After all, I love spending time in the kitchen. But the results are consistent and spectacular. If you pick up an old copy, make sure to check her web site for errata--there are a lot of them. I understand that these have been fixed in current printings.

                                    If you do get into bread, you will want to get a scale. Without one, getting reproducible results is difficult unless you work more by feel, which takes a lot of practice. Using a heavy-duty stand mixer also yields more predictable results over hand mixing (again, unless you do this all the time).

                                2. re: tundrah

                                  The Cook's Illustrated approach has you let the dough rise on oiled parchment in a frying pan. You use the parchment as a sling to slowly drip the bread into the heated Dutch oven. And here is the best thing: Neither the Dutch oven nor the frying pan need to be washed afterwards.

                                  Yes, the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes sounds way too yeasty for me. The CI version uses only 1/4 tsp per loaf.

                                  A variation on the CI recipe: Today I increased the water by 1 oz to see if I could get a more open crumb. Success! And I think the flavour was a bit better, too, though it had also fermented for 12 hrs. vs. 10 hrs for my last trial, so that might also contribute. I found the dough easy to handle, even with the increased hydration. I am gonna push the envelope and add a bit more water. More to follow...

                                  1. re: zamorski

                                    Thanks for your thoughts, but even with parchment lining the pans, I would be inclined to give them a soapy bath afterwards!

                                    1. re: janetms383

                                      Hmmm...wouldn't hurt, though let's stipulate that it would be a quick clean-up!

                                    2. re: zamorski

                                      I did a variation today on the CI recipe, and it turned out very, very nicely:

                                      I had enough time to make a four-hour sponge: Combine 6 oz of President's Choice Organic Unbleached All-purpose Flour, 12 oz water, and 1/4 tsp yeast in a large deep bowl and whip with a wire whisk (by hand or with your stand mixer) for 2 minutes--I use my KitchenAid mixer bowl for the dough. Whisk together the remaining 9 oz of flour and 1 1/4 tsp of salt and gently layer it on top of the the sponge mixture and allow to sit (covered with foil) at room temperature for 4 hours. Then mix the sponge and overlying flour together and allow to sit at room temperature for the usual 8 to 18 hours (I used about 11 hours this time).

                                      I omitted the beer and vinegar in the CI recipe because I was using the sponge.

                                      When this VERY STICKY dough is risen, sift a good bit of flour on the counter and gently scrape the dough onto the floured counter, trying to keep as much air in it as possible. A greased spatula is helpful here. Sift a good bit of flour over the top of the dough as well. Using a bench knife/scraper, fold the dough over on itself in thirds (like a business letter). Then fold the short ends over in thirds as well. Keep doing this as many times as you can (maybe 6 or so total), adding a bit more flour if needed to prevent sticking. Gently shape a boule and then continue as with the regular CI recipe, but do NOT slash the loaf before baking.

                                      Results: Loaf was "rustic" in appearance--not as attractive as the original CI loaf, but not ugly. Crust was very thin and crisp (superior to the CI version). Crumb was a bit chewy, very moist, and relatively open--largest holes were about 1 cm in diameter--much better than the CI original. Flavour was exceptional--had the complex, artisan bread aroma and taste, even though the beer and vinegar were omitted.

                                      Verdict: A great approach if you have little hands-on time to bake but you do have the four hours to make the sponge. However: This is a very, very wet dough, and handling it requires a deft touch. One of my complaints about the NYT approach is that they sort of sell this as an approach for novice bakers, but working with such a wet dough takes some practice (hence the complaints you will see here and elsewhere about the recipe). I believe that the folding of the dough will help prevent some of the problems people have with collapsing/spreading loaves. The CI technique of using a parchment-lined frying pan for the proof is an excellent one, especially for such a gloppy dough.

                                      The Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day approach is probably more popular because:

                                      1) It is more efficient and schedule-friendly--you mix 4 loaves at once and get to bake them over a period of days.
                                      2) Hydration level in the dough is lower, so it is far easier to work with.
                                      3) The book provides lots of variations.
                                      4) The authors of the cookbook are doing some effective marketing.

                                      However: Getting the thin, glassy, shatteringly crisp crust and very open crumb requires a very wet dough and lots of steam early in the baking process, so if you are looking for these, use the NYT approach (or my variation of the CI approach above) instead. Handling a wet dough is not difficult per se, but it does take a little practice. Using lots of flour on the counter and on the top of the dough and moving quickly are the keys, in my experience.

                                  2. re: greygarious

                                    Agree that baking too close to the bottom of the oven risks scorching. I now use convection for the first 30 minutes to further less the risk of that.

                                  3. re: tundrah

                                    I also used the broiler pan with water to help promote the crust!

                                    1. re: tundrah

                                      I've found that slashing with a serrated bread knife works very well, even on an unfloured surface. So far I've had no luck getting the "lofty" rise I want out of the Artisan bread recipe. I've moved on to trying other recipes but am still far from finding the right one.

                                      1. re: tundrah

                                        The 5-Minutes A Day book recommends slashing with a serrated knife and always indicates to either dust the bread with flour or mist with water before slashing to keep the knife from catching. The serrated blade seems counter-intuitive but I have had no problems.

                                        I also have had no problems with the dough being so loose that it collapses too easily. I would hazard the guess that a lot of the problems have to do with the inaccuracies of measuring flour by volume instead of weight.

                                        1. re: jzerocsk

                                          Agree that flour measurement may be a factor. The flour itself may also play a role here, given that the gluten content (and characteristics) vary substantially in all purpose flours. In the Southern US, for example, locally marketed flours are relatively weak, supposedly because baking biscuits is a common application, and gluten would be unwelcome there. Bleaching flour also results in weaker gluten.

                                          So I would use a premium national brand of unbleached all purpose such as Pillsbury, Gold Medal, King Arthur, Robinhood (Canada), or President's Choice Organic (Canada).

                                      2. I made a second batch yesterday and really find this recipe lacking. First, the instructions say this will make 4 loaves. I think 2 is more realistic if you want a loaf of any sustantial size. I let the first rise go for nearly 5 hours and my kitchen was warm.

                                        Then I tried following eLizard suggestion to form a baguette on a cookie sheet, but I think eLizard is holding something back, because he's either doing something else or really not getting a good baguette because the dough spread to the height of focaccia. I ended up dumpting the dough in the loaf pan. Let this rise go about 1hour 15 min. Because I used twice the dough, I got a good sized loaf, but again, while the interior was OK (not great) the crust is really odd. Barely crisp, tough and chewy. I used the water in the broiler pan method.

                                        I don't have an oven-proof dutch oven, and don't have a stone or a peel. I haven't tried the CI version because I thought the vinegar addition sounded odd. I'm also not weighing my flour, so maybe that is why my dough is so formless.

                                        Additionally, the bread is really only good when still warm from the oven. The next day, I've found the texture and taste to really have deteriorated. However, does make great croutons!

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: janetms383

                                          Maybe there is also something amiss with the NYT adaptation...I've only ever used what's right in the book.

                                          The bread DOES have a very short shelf life, which is fairly unsurprising considering it doesn't have any additional ingredients (read: fat) that would contribute to it lasting longer. I would guess this is the reason the recommended loaf size is so small. This is not the kind of bread that you bake on Sunday and use all week. You're supposed to bake it around the same time you intend to use it, so you should not bake any more at one time than you intend to use in the next 24 hours or so.

                                          1. re: janetms383

                                            Janet, I don't have a baking stone, either, but have had good results when I preheat a heavy sheet pan (or two stacked together) inverted on the shelf. I do this whenever I make pies or tarts, to boost browning of the bottom crust.

                                            I haven't tried it yet, but when my old microwave died I saved the heavy ceramic tray it contained, and will use that in lieu of a stone. Baking on parchment makes a peel superfluous. Any heavy kitchen pan which is level when inverted can serve in lieu of a stone.

                                            1. re: greygarious

                                              I was just surprised by how much it spread when it didn't have the loaf pan to contain it. Based on eLizard's post, it soulded like I could get a baguette, but there was no way!

                                              If I understand what you're suggesting, let it rest on parchment, and then put the parchment on top of a preheated heavy cookie sheet or baking pan?

                                              p.s. jzerocsk - thanks for the input on shelf life!

                                            2. re: janetms383

                                              Shaping bread (especially from very moist dough) is BY FAR the most difficult step in bread baking, and baguettes are harder to form than boules, in my experience.

                                              1. re: janetms383

                                                eLizard is forming the baguette in a couche, which is a cloth that is folded so as to support the sides as the dough rises.

                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                  ahhh well, that would make a big difference

                                                  1. re: janetms383

                                                    yes, that's how i usually make it. but i also occassionally form a boule, and it doesn't spread.

                                              2. To get it to raise, put a Pyrex cup full of water in you micro-wave and nuke it for 2 minutes. Then put you dough in. The warmth gets it started and it is protected from drafts.

                                                To keep it from spreading, twist damp tea towels into snakes and put them down on the baking sheet. Use them to make a form under a parchment or foil sheet.

                                                To get a nice crust, put a pan of water on the shelf below the "baking" shelf when you turn the oven on. Don't let all the steam escape when you put the bread in.

                                                1. beating a dead horse here... but had to report back...

                                                  made two loaves from the CI recipe this week, though I didn't exactly follow the actual baking instructions. I have been making the dough to the recipe, letting it do its second rise in a small skillet on parchment for shaping, then actually cooking it on a stone instead of in the pot/dutch oven. the taste, crust and loft (yay for actual air bubbles) has been far superior to the 5 Min Artisan bread results I got. 15 kneads is hardly inconvenient, though I don't know how well this dough would survive in the fridge for days on end...

                                                  also tried the Pepin method, but that was a bomb for me. WAY too dense, and a nightmare to get out of the pot. Not a fan of that one...