A while back I read a book called "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" and was greatly intrigued by the process described. But since the method involved putting aside my beloved bread machine in order to shape the bread by hand and bake it in the oven, the experiment had to await weather cool enough to run the oven without fainting from heat stroke.
The idea is that you skip all the kneading, multiple rises, punching down, etc. Simply slop all the ingredients into a covered container of some sort, let it sit out for a few hours, and then pop it into the fridge. Over the next two weeks you can then pull off a piece of whatever size you want, shape it, and then bake it for about 30 minutes.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?
Well, I mixed up a bucket of dough Friday. That took about 10 minutes. Then this morning I pulled off a small piece, shaped it into this boule, let it sit out for 30 minutes, slashed the top, and baked it for 30 minutes.
My little boule not only looks and tastes great, but it is also LITTLE, a major asset when baking bread for one's own single self. Here's a pic of it sitting next to an ordinary table knife (okay, I had eaten a slice or two).
You can see how small it is. Just enough bread to keep me going for 2-3 days, and then I can bake up another loaf.
According to the authors, this approach works because the dough is extremely wet, so it behaves differently than traditional bread dough. Certainly the recipes are different – about twice as much water as I would typically use. But who can argue with success? It's quick, it's easy, and it produces great bread.