I love baking bread, and I’ve made traditional (knead-and-rise) loaves for years. It’s a “task” I truly enjoy, and I look forward to the occasions when I have time to spend this way.
A friend of ours recently visited with gifts in hand. One was a book about creating artisan breads in five minutes a day. Uh-huh.
I read the book, though, because I wanted to see just what the authors were hawking as “artisan bread”. Turns out they have put one heck of a lot of effort into their process; and, sure enough, it only takes about five minutes of your time. There is rise time (which varies with the bread type) and bake time, too — but then your body doesn’t need to hang around for that.
These breads require no kneading (at all, and I’m not kidding on this one), no proofing of the yeast, about 30-60 seconds to shape a loaf … five minutes of your precious time (if you goof around a bit) from refrigerator (where your amazing dough lives for up to two weeks), through your oven, and into your mouth.
This, a loaf of European peasant bread, was my second. The first came out rather flat and dense, which I discovered was my own fault. My dough was a little too wet, and I had inadvertently used a very high (21g) protein flour, where these recipes call for flour with a significantly lower range of 10g-12g. Makes a difference.
But my error was easy to repair; I just worked in a bit of the lower-protein flour before shaping, which added all of one minute to my effort and resulted in the taste treat you see here. If you click on this picture you can see the wonderful, rich texture of this bread.
If you are a baker, or someone who enjoys a marvelous loaf of artisan bread, this book is a must-have for your library. If you’ve been scared off of bread-baking with horror stories of achieving the perfect “feel” of dough, this is your book. Honestly, you need to know nothing more than how to measure four ingredients, pre-heat an oven and time the baking!
A baking stone is probably a must-have, too, as well as a pizza peel (a wooden “paddle” that allows you to slide your soon-to-be artisan loaf onto the hot baking stone), both of which can be purchased for about $50. Both are useful for many other things, too. The stone helps regulate the oven heat more evenly, for example. And hang the peel on your kitchen wall to impress your friends: it will, trust me. Besides, there are pizza bread recipes in this book, too, so you can actually use the peel to slide those incredibly delicious pizzas onto the baking stone for perfect pizza every time.
OK, here’s the poop: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (photography by Mark Luinenburg). St. Martin’s Press, November 2007. ISBN-10: 0312362919, ISBN-13: 978-0312362911