Monday, April 26, 2010

For the Love of Carbs: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (Review)

I've confessed my love for cookbooks and just when I didn't think I needed another one for a while (my Pioneer Woman one has been keeping me busy - can I just tell you how much I love, love, love that cookbook? Everything I've made from it is amazing), I came across this one.  The book is called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Herzberg and Zoe Francois.

Can it really be true?  Homemade baguettes, ciabatta, flatbread, and naan (among many others) in just five minutes?  Is it even possible to make anything like that in five minutes?  Yes and no. The title is just a teensy bit misleading.  There's some work to be done to get to the point where it takes five minutes, not to mention resting periods for the dough (usually about 20-40 minutes), and then the baking time.  BUT, once the dough is made, the hands-on time it takes to prep the bread for baking really takes about five minutes for every batch of bread you make.  Confused?  Let me explain...

The ingredients in the master recipe are really basic:  flour, water, salt, and yeast. The master recipe can be used to make a lot of different breads like baguettes, ciabatta, naan, flatbread, and for making calzones and stromboli.  There are other recipes in the book for things like rye bread, foccacia challah, bagels, brioche, beignets (I'll be making those soon - we've been wanting to try them since we got The Princess and the Frog), and more.  The ingredients and measurements vary, but the concept is the same.

One other necessity: a container big enough to not only hold all the dough but to also give it room to rise. When I bought my cookbook off Amazon (I love Amazon - lets me feed my book-buying addiction much more frugally), I bought one of the containers featured since I didn't have anything that would work. The containers I got are six-quart containers and worked perfectly - I wouldn't use anything smaller than that.

The great thing about the method for breadmaking in this book is that it requires absolutely no kneading.  You simply mix the ingredients in the same container you'll store the dough in. This step takes hardly any time at all. Just 3 cups of warm water, 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast, 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt, and 6 1/2 cups of flour. The dough is really wet and you couldn't knead it if you tried without making a crazy, sticky mess.

Once it's all mixed, all you have to do is let it rise at room temperature in the covered container.  You let it rise and rise until dough flattens at the top - about 2-3 hours.  After it has risen enough, you can either use it in any of the recipes in the book or stick it in the fridge.  It'll be less sticky if you refrigerate it first.

When you're ready to make the bread, you just cut off a chunk of it (for the specific bread I was making, I cut off a one-pound chunk) with a serrated knife. Every recipe requires a different amount from the master batch. 

For this recipe, I shaped the dough into a ball by stretching the surface around to the bottom around all sides.  This only took a minute to do.  Nothing fancy.  Then you just let it rest on a dusted pizza peel (mine came with my baking stone - see my pizza post from a few months ago to learn more about this awesome kitchen tool) for a certain amount of time. For this recipe, I let it rest on a cornmeal-dusted peel for 40 minutes and then scored the top with a knife before I put it in the oven. 

To get the crisp crust and soft inside typical of artisan bread, you have to bake with steam.  You slide the dough off the peel onto the baking stone in the preheated oven (450 degrees for this recipe).  In a pan on a rack below, you pour a cup of hot water and quickly close the oven.  Then I baked this bread for about 30 minutes, or until, as the book says, you can hear the bread "sing" when it is exposed to the cooler air. The picture above is the first loaf I ever made from the book - it worked out, no problem. And it was soooo good. You can store the rest of the dough in the fridge for two weeks.

This is just a quick overview of the process - you really should check out the book.  It's awesome - now if we want bread to go with dinner, I just grab a chunk of the dough, shape it, let it rest for a little while, and then pop it into the oven.  Like the title of the book says, it's really only five minutes hands-on time when you want it.  The ingredients are simple and inexpensive. The process couldn't be any easier. This book truly is, as the cover says, "the discovery that revolutionizes home baking." 


Stephanie F. said...

Thanks Heather! This book has been in my Amazon shopping cart for months! I'm so glad you explained the process. I think I'll have to buy it.

Z Fam said...

That sounds great. You will have to let me know how the beignets are. Taylor loves the Princess and the Frog and I would love to know how they are. By the way Taylor keeps asking when we can have play group with Max so we should get together and let them play sometime.

Beth said...

I think you mean 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt not tablespoons right?

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