Monday, January 11, 2010

Off the Shelf: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Really? Home baked bread in only 5 minutes a day? Well, not exactly.

Artisan Bread in 5 Mintues a Day: The Discovery The Revolutionizes Home Baking, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, has recently been all over foodie blogs and cooking news, including an appearance on Martha Stewart. The idea was too intriguing and, after smashing success with Paperhill's similarly-made bread, I asked for this book for Christmas. I have only begun to delve into the method outlined in this book, but its principles make practical sense to me and I find the concept of daily fresh bread very appealing.

The premise of the book is that you'll make a large batch of wet dough, store it in the fridge, and use portions of it over the course of a week, simply shaping and baking with a mere 5 minutes of active involvement per day. Fair enough... I'm sure with practice this process could be streamlined, and "Artisan Bread in Forty-Five Minutes a Day" isn't quite as catchy.

So it's not yet as quick as purported in practical application, but that doesn't make this book less worthy a read. They offer many basic recipes that can be used for multiple variations. The basic bagel recipe can also be used for pretzels; the challah dough can alternatively be used for cinnamon rolls or a raisin-studded turban loaf. The dough was easy to work with when I made both the braided challah and the soft american-style white, and the finished loaves were tasty and beautiful. My next adventure in artisan bread will have to be the master recipe as a free-form boule loaf (which I should not have skipped), and then some bagels, pita and pain d'epi. Despite personal preferences, I don't go for breads that require fussy, uncommon or very crunchy grains since, if my small kids and/or husband don't find them appealing, I will have to eat them myself. And that's just not good for a girl's figure, you know. This book has bread recipes of all kinds and for all occasions, and I'm looking forward to trying them as I get the chance.

Many of the recipes in this book call for a pizza stone and flour-dusted wooden peel, as well as a water-filled broiler pan for getting a crustier bread with a moist crumb. I luckily happened to have registered for a pizza set at our wedding (though later regretted having to store and move it), and now it turns out to have been rather fortuitous. The downside to using a stone and peel, aside from storing in the off season, is that it can make your oven messy and cause a smoky kitchen. As a person who has lived with a very humbling smoke alarm for some time, I'd also recommend earplugs and a sense of humor.

The grade? So far I'd have to give it a solid A for content, an A+ for originality, and I'll forgive the title's false advertising because no person, with the notable exception of Jesus Christ, has ever made bread in less than 5 minutes a day. A good read.


paperhill said...

Your're right about Jesus being the only one! Sounds like something I'd love. I'm so glad you are enjoying the recipe. I'm making some this week again! I hope all is well with you. Susan

Jodi said...

I requested this book from the library literally months ago... I'm 50th in line or something. Maybe I should just bit the bullet and buy it.

Together We Save said...

Looks wonderful... I like your line about Christ too.