As per my mama-ness and thrifty-ness that have been crowding out the traveling lately, I’ve discovered something ridiculously exciting. I can make bread!
I have this friend JG (hi, JG!) who told me about Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (AB5). I took a quick gander at it probably almost a year ago and though, sheesh, I could never do that. There’s no way it takes only five minutes. And it definitely, couldn’t possibly, no way no how taste good.
I was wrong! Really, really wrong.
Once you know what you are doing (we’ll get to that in a minute), it really does only take five minutes of active preparation per day. One day you mix it, and then any day you want fresh bread, you yank off a piece, let it warm up to room temp, and bake it. That’s it! For reals!
I’m at a slight disadvantage when it comes to this breadmaking phenomenon. I can’t get the AB5 book here. Apparently there’s lots of red tape involved in selling books overseas. The US AB5 book can’t be sold in Europe. They did release or are releasing a UK version. This is great in the sense that I can read it and maybe get it on amazon.de; this is bad in the sense that it’s made for European bakers who do everything by weight. I don’t own a scale and would be totally helpless without my KitchenAid measuring cups.
So… I had to use the master recipe listed online. You can find it here. The first time I made it, I was in total shock.
Hello, loaf, you are lookin’ somethin’ mighty pretty. You’re a bit dolled up fer this here kitchen, ya know. I reckon you’s a bit lost. The bakery is back there yonder a’ways. Scoot, skedaddle, get on outta here. Unless you want to jump on my plate; then you can stay.
I loved eating the white bread, but I’m used to something with a bit more, um, fiber. The grocery stores here have lots of different flours as the Germans are BIG bread-eaters. I bought a bag of white spelt flour and made another batch. Delish. This time I used some of the dough to make pizza!
And, speaking of pizza, I do not own a pizza peel or a baking stone as the master recipe suggests. I wouldn’t know where to find these items (hmmm, maybe I should just hop on down to Rome?), so I make due. I use parchment paper instead of a peel, and a baking sheet instead of a stone.
Unfortunately, the parchment paper really makes the pizza crust suffer. It tastes great, but it doesn’t get as crispy as I’d like. Perhaps the book has more tips for making pizza – I won’t know until I get my hot hands on a copy.
My next attempt used a bag of mehrkornbrot (multigrain bread) mix. I didn’t know it was a mix until I got it home. It already had some yeast in it – and maybe even vital wheat gluten (see below for a link that refers to this) but I am not sure what that is called in German. I was able to reduce the added yeast and still come out with a professional-looking, scrumptious loaf of bread.
(For more healthy breads, these folks have a new book out – and a whole grain master recipe you can see here.)
But, does it really save me money? Answer: For now, yes. If I was back in the US? I’m not so sure. Flour is dirt cheap here, 25 cents for a kilo of the white stuff. It takes almost an entire kilo to make a batch. The mehrkornbrot is only 80 cents. I use half white flour and half mix when I make the fiber-filled loaf. Yeast is 1 euro for ten tablespoons. And… I don’t pay for electricity.
I think even if you buy everything in bulk in the US, the energy will be your biggest cost. You must preheat your oven to 450 degrees (you have to – no getting around it), then run it for 30-40 mins each time you make bread. Yowzers, that could definitely add up.
Even though I don’t pay for electricity, I don’t want to be running my oven that much every day so I use the dough to make two loaves instead of four. It seems to last several days just fine. No moldy sandwiches. Yet.
One other thing that was totally a challenge for me was finding a container large enough to hold all that dough AND fit in my fridge. For a while, I just used the porch (you never knew I had a fancy schmancy walk-in did you?). But, it got warmer. And then colder. And it will (I’m determined!) get warmer and warmer as the months go on. I am not going to be able to have fridge space outside in June.
I finally settled on a plastic shoebox! It does take up a generous portion of the Barbie Dream House model I’ve got. But, for now, I think it’s worth it.
p.s. – one more thing… JG, you told me that parchment paper doesn’t set itself on fire. If the oven is too hot, it just disintegrates. Unfortunately, this German stuff might not play by the rules. I totally set a piece on fire last night while putting a loaf in the oven. Yep, big high flames and all. You’d be proud. Doc Sci took the hot water that was supposed to go in the broiler pan and make a nice fluffy loaf and dumped it over the dough so that we wouldn’t make the German evening news. Fortunately, no carcinogenic flecks made their way on to my bread, so I scooped it up and shoved it into a loaf pan. I’m now eating a Phoenix loaf.. risen from the ashes. Miss you! love, Thrifty Travel Mama