January 17, 2010

A Boule And A Pain d'Epi: Baking From ABin5

A lot of people say that baking bread is therapeutic and I would consider myself one of them. I understand many people find it very relaxing to get rid of their frustration by taking it all out on the dough. Now, I definitely do not belong to this group!
The one part of bread making that I can take or leave (mostly leave, I would say!) is the kneading of the dough.
Give me a bread recipe and I am likely to relegate a large part of the kneading, if not all of it, to my trustworthy food processor.

Perhaps Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francis had people like me in mind when they wrote Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (a.k.a ABin5).
This book of theirs, their latest one called Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and a new one in the works, Pizza and Flatbread in 5 Minutes a Day are especially for people who would love to make their own bread at home with minimal fuss. Read "no kneading" for minimal fuss, in my case!
Of course, you cannot make bread in 5 minutes, but what their recipes do is show you how to easily mix (no kneading) a large quantity of bread dough, store in the fridge and then use only 5 minutes to shape your bread and bake whenever you want it.

After reading all the reviews, I had ordered my copy about a year back but haven't baked too much from it. I sometimes have a tendency to forget being adventurous with my breads and go back to making the same old bread.
You can find my grape shaped bread adapted from ABin5 here.

So when Michelle of Big Black Dog announced she was getting together a group of bloggers who wanted to bake from HBin5 (or ABin5, if we wanted) I joined them knowing this was one very good way of trying to bake my way through the book. We are baking our way through the book starting from this month.

The nice thing about this group of bread bakers, apart from the support, is that there are no compulsions to keep to the schedule. While a schedule is drawn up to bake the various breads within given deadlines, each one of us can bake according to our convenience. Similarly we can use the schedule as a guide and bake what we like, and shape or flavour our breads as we choose.Really, it couldn't get better than this!
Well, I almost didn't make the 15th January deadline. Well, I baked 2 breads out of the suggested three at the "nth" hour, but am posting them another 2 days later!

For the first half of this month, we were to make the master recipe and then, from this, make anyone, two or all three of a loaf, an epi or wreath shaped bread and spicy snack crackers.
I had time only for two out of three, so I made a boule (artisan free-form loaf) and a pain d' epi (wheat stalk bread) from the master recipe.

Since we are going to be baking our way through the book, and it would be unfair to for copyright reasons, I will not be reproducing any of the recipes from this book.
I will however, give my impressions of the breads/ loaves I bake and recipes of whatever we had the breads with whenever possible.

The Pain d'Epi:

This is a wheat stalk shaped French bread where "epi" describes the flower of wheat and "pain" means bread in French. A very pretty looking bread, it is also easy to pull of the roll-like "ears" and so a very popular picnic bread. This bread can also be made as a decorative wreath.
This bread tends to stale quickly and become chewy and rubbery and is best eaten fresh.

Jeff and Zoe have a very detailed tutorial on how to shape this bread on the ABin5 site. Now, I thought I had understood how to do this but realized I really hadn't when I actually got down to trying it out. This meant that I added a little more flour (the dough can be very sticky!) to reshape the dough, which isn't really a desirable thing to do if you want to keep the texture of the bread.
I finally managed to make an epi (wheat stalk shaped bread) of sorts.

The Free-Form Boule:

"Boule" means ball in French and refers to any rustic ball shaped bread and is perhaps the easiest bread to shape, other than "no-knead" breads which require no shaping at all.

My boule was pretty good, but I had problems slashing it prettily. Slashing and decorating bread is one area where I need to improve a lot. The other problem I tend to face with free-from bread is that the dough invariably seems to spread a little with the result that my loaves aren't very high. While this doesn't make a difference to the taste, it tends to look as if my bread got tired and sat and spread itself a bit comfortably!

The ABin5 site suggests the use of bannetons/ brotforms, which are wicker rising baskets, to prevent this spread. Since this is something I cannot get here, I shall have to be satisfied with slightly squat-looking boules for the present.


Anushruti said...

I'm also one of them who has the book and has not baked from it. This is compelling me to do so. Great job here!

The Cooking Ninja said...

wow! Great looking bread. Love your epi!

Y said...

What a great idea. I totally need a bit of motivation when it comes to baking bread too. Have had that book for ages now!

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

Well, atleast this group is motivating you to bake the bread. I simply can't get myself to do that. It just seems to difficult! And I'm sure it won't be therapeutic for me either :)

♥♥♥Ria♥♥♥ said...

I really wish I could join this group... hmm..maybe after few weeks.

Breads look real good! I have never tried them. You boule looks good even though you had probs slashing it.

MeetaK said...

love this! it was cool to read as i too have dough rising for bread rolls. living in germany i am spoiled for choice when it coms to bread so i hardly bake bread at home. only from time to time. this one looks great aparna!

Sunshinemom said...

Looks very good! I went through the site sometime back and bookmarked the wreath shaped bread. Yet to try it out. Like you said I too seem to go back to old much loved ones!

Kitchen Butterfly said...

Stunning....love the Pain D'Epi!!!!!

Happy Cook said...

I do love baking bread, and like you my kneading is done by the machine, what i love of making bread is the shaping them , or if it is for fruit breads, adding the dried fruits and then kneading with the hand and shaping them. The first kneading is always done with the machine, which I am si happy.
I do love AB5 book, made a challa for the event. Will post it next week.
This looks so so good, especialy shaping like this.

simplyfood said...

Your bread looks awesome.Will surely try my hand at some baking.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Lovely breads, I especially love the epi.

Simran said...

Wow! You cut such a lovely epi :)

Curry Leaf said...

I think you did it perfectly Aparna. will not even think of trying this.Love the boule as well as epi.

Manggy said...

Well done Aparna! I wonder if adding more salt would help it keep fresh for a bit longer. Lovely shaping :)

Indhu said...

I too love baking.. except for the kneading part... I always have the doubt if I have kneaded it enough...
love these breads.. I should try baking different breads... I always bake the same wheat bread since that works for me :)

pigpigscorner said...

Looks great! I've never baked in awhile...I should really start again!

Jacque said...

Oooh, your bread looks so inviting. I'll bet a nice piece of that with some butter would be perfect right about now. Nice work!

vivari said...

baking bread is good.my son loves bread.thanks

Michelle said...

Love the Epi and wasn't it fun to make! Gorgeous loaf too!

So glad you joined HBinFive!

bake in paris said...

Aparna, this sounds like so much fun! Happy bread baking!

Sawadee from Bangkok,

Ramya Vijaykumar said...

Hey Aparna, sounds very interesting and love the way your bread has turned out!!!

AdukalaVishesham said...

wow bread looks very tempting....We have nominated you for the Kreativ blogger award. Please visit our site and accept your award.

Rajani@eatwritethink said...

its great, love the bread!

Beth said...

I came here to look at your Daring Baker post, and am delighted to find out that you're also participating the Bread Braid! I'm like you - not a lot of experience baking bread, and not a lot of time to mess with it, so I joined up too. Great results so far - I'll be watching your blog!

Aparna said...

Thank you. Its not the best epi, but I was quite happy withe way my first one turned out. :)

You should, Anushruthi.

Y, that's why I joined the group!!!

Lucky you, Meeta. :)

Looking forward to your challah, F.

Adding more salt? Hmm....... I wonder, Mark.

Thank you for the award. Appreciate it.

So we shall bake bread together then, Beth. :)