After getting over my fear of yeast and mastering that recipe my husband and I wanted to try something with a little more flavor. For Christmas we asked for and received Maggie Glezer Artisan Baking. Most of the recipes require a sourdough starter, which we don't have, so we decided to try "Judy Unruh's Wedding Zwieback." You can use the recipe to make sturdy rolls but we used it in a pan to make sandwich bread. I think this is the best one we've tried so far but it takes a full two days to make. This is the perfect sandwich and toast bread. It slices beautifully due to its dense fine-grained texture. If it only took a day I would make this our go-to recipe, but (practically speaking) it does take two, so we decided to keep looking.
My husband prefers a chewier, crustier bread so, while at the library, we picked up "Bread Alone." If you are looking for a single book to take you from basic to artisan loaves this one is for you. The author goes into great detail about the tools required and the various types of flour for the best loaves based on the style of bread being cooked. This book still focuses a lot on sourdough recipes (this trend bothers me, since, while I like sourdough, I don't want all my bread to be sourdough) but did offer more variety than did "Artisan Bread." All told, this recipe also took 2 days.
We started with a Country Hearth Loaf; a loaf with a simple flour combination of unbleached white and whole wheat flours. The recipe starts with a poolish (which is a base for a lot of different recipes) This takes 2-10 hours. The poolish can also rise in the fridge for 12-15 hours after which it needs to sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Next, the remaining ingredients will be added and then kneaded, by hand or stand mixer. Now the dough needs to ferment for another 2-3 hours, after which it is deflated and allowed to let rest for another 30 minutes, divided into loaves and proofed for another 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Finally you are ready to bake it!
This recipe does require a baking stone and a small spray bottle. In the first 10 minutes of baking, the inner walls and floor of the oven are sprayed to steam the loaf. After which the temperature is, and baking continues for another 20 minutes. Personally, this is too high maintenance for me. I realize the multiple rises makes it "better", but I don't have that kind of time. I would forget or get sidetracked or it just wouldn't fit in my schedule. That said, it makes nice bread, its chewier than the Zwieback or Amish recipe, and has a much thicker crust. I would consider this good soup because it is best eaten plain or with butter. It doesn't slice very well so it doesn't fit into the toaster, and if you make a sandwich with it you are going to get a mouthful with every bite!
Our most recent experiment was a Dutch Oven Bread Recipe and it's by far my husband's favorite. It's not quite as time intensive as the Zwieback or Hearth Loaf and the only special equipment needed was the dutch oven. We already own one and are always looking for ways to put it to good use. This makes a nice crispy crusted bread with a soft bubbly texture on the inside. My one complaint is that it's never going to be loaf shaped so it's harder to toast.