Thursday, October 17, 2013

A New Lease on Baking Bread: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day


If you are ready for a quick and easy overhaul of your bread baking, I have found the book for you!  Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and its follow-up book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes A Dayboth by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, will teach you how to make gorgeous, artisanal bread in your house in just minutes.  And if you are not a bread-baker, look out.  This book might just convert you. 

The first book, Artisan Bread, bills itself as revolutionary.  And I have to say, it has revolutionized my home baking!   Just when I was starting to feel worn down and tired of my weekly baking, this book has turned it all around and made baking a pleasure again.  The books' authors, have really hit upon a method for streamlining your bread baking, making it possible to bake all of your bread from scratch with very little effort.  The second book, Healthy Bread, is follow-up book, with a similar master recipe, but with many whole grain and gluten-free recipe variations.

How This Method is Different

The traditional method of bread making that I learned is:  proof yeast, add ingredients, mix, knead bread, let it rise, shape, second rise, bake and then cool.  This bread-making method is must faster, much more streamlined.  No special equipment, very little to clean up.  The secret to this method is comes down to this one discovery: 

Pre-mixed, pre-risen, high moisture dough keeps well in the refrigerator.     

So you can make a huge batch, keep it in your refrigerator, and then, when you want to make a batch of bread, you just need to shape, wait and bake. 

But here's the other thing about this method.  If you are working with high moisture dough, you also don't have to knead it.  You just have to mix it. 

1. Combine your basic ingredients in a very large bowl (water, salt, flour, yeast/sourdough starter).  The recipe for this bread dough creates a wet, shaggy dough that you can mix with a spoon.  How easy is that?
2. Let it rise for a couple of hours, then put a lid on your bowl and stick it in the fridge.
3. When you need bread, grab a hunk of the dough, shape it and let it rest for an hour or so.  Then bake. 

The end.

What I Love About This Method

So easy!  No more hauling out the bread maker, keeping an eye on it, because it seemed like I always needed to adjust my ingredients or scrape down the sides.  No more cleaning up the bread maker, or putting it away.  No more kneading. 

Simple to scale up.   Before, if I wanted to make a large batch of bread I had to do two rounds in my bread maker, or I had to commit to some serious kneading.  Now, I can mix up one or two week's worth of bread at one time.   You can scale the recipe up or down depending on how much bread your household consume.  It takes no more time to mix up enough for four one-pound-loaves as it does to mix up eight one-pound-loaves. 

Consistent, delicious results! I have to say, before reading this book, I had good bread days and bad bread days.  There were days when my bread came out heavy and dense and other days when it was light and fluffy.  I think that this method, which allows dough to ferment long and slow in the fridge, makes for better bread.   The flavor becomes more complex, the gluten develops on its own, so that you get that chewy texture with a custard-like crumb.  I am in heaven.  I am getting gorgeous loaves of sourdough out of these recipes - chewy, with beautiful holes, a thick chewy crust, and a sourdough tang. 

Convenient.  Having a batch of good dough in my fridge at all times is really helpful for a busy mom.  Now, in a dinner pinch, I can turn out a pizza in a couple of minutes.  I can bake up a loaf of bread whenever we run out.  I remember the days when I used to buy dough for making various dishes.  This has all of the convenience of those products, but it is quickly and easily made at home.

Nourishing.  If using a sourdough starter, the long fermentation period (even while refrigerated, your dough is still fermenting, just slowly) allows for the naturally-occurring phytic acids to break down.  Phytic acids are anti-nutrients, that is, enzymes which will naturally bind with minerals and other nutrients, rendering them unavailable for absorption in our bodies.  And since we eat to replenish our nutrient stores, not deplete them, souring breads for long periods is an important (and traditional) way to ensure that our bodies are actually benefiting from foods we are eating. 

A Few Other Notes about the Books

Both books are organized around a single "master" recipe, but then devotes the remainder of the book to many other bread recipes, many of which sound delicious and intriguing.    (Pumpernickel Date and Walnut Bread, Moroccan Anise and Barley Flatbread, Rustic Wild Mushroom and Potato Pizza Provencal . . . mmmm.)

I was disappointed that neither of these books include a recipe for sourdough bread.   The authors described sourdough starters as requiring "significant time and attention," and that was their offered reason for omitting sourdough recipes (if you have worked with sourdough starters, you probably disagree!).  Nonetheless, I found that I could just add a cup of sourdough starter to their master recipe and it worked perfectly.  The longer the dough is refrigerated, the more pronounced the flavor becomes, so that after a few days, you will have a very tangy loaf.  Even if you do not use a sourdough starter, your dough will take on a tangy flavor the longer it sits in your refrigerator, and you can develop an ad hoc starter by just reserving a little of the dough from a previous batch and using it in subsequent new batches.


Final Takeaway

Pick up the Artisan Bread book!  At the very least, pick up a copy at your local library and try it out for a week.  I think you will be as delighted as I was. 

I won't give away the master recipe, but here is a link to a YouTube video, where the authors demonstrate their technique. 

In the meantime, you'll find me in the kitchen later, rolling out Arabic bread out of my refrigerated dough.  I'm sure it's going to be delicious! 

Related Posts: 

* Sourdough "Pita" Bread, or Khubiz Arabi

* Za'atar Bread, or Mana'eesh

Shared on Tasty Traditions, Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesdays, Real Food Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Fight Back Friday, Homeacre Hop .


  1. I am so happy to see this post! I love this method and this is primarily what we use. It is so easy, and convenient to be able to have fresh bread on the table in about an hour. We've had success using fresh milled spelt flour but I was wondering if there was a more traditional approach. I'm glad to hear that just adding the sourdough starter to the dough worked for you. We'll have to give it a try.

    1. You should! Of course, there are tons of recipes in these books, so I am not sure if it would work for all of them. I have tried the master recipes and a whole wheat one (rising right now). Thanks for the comment!

  2. I've heard of these books but I'm glad to read your review. Thank you for sharing it at the HomeAcre Harvest Hop; I hope you'll link up again this Thursday.
    Kathi @

  3. So, Jessica, when you mixed up your master dough, did you only use sourdough starter in place of the yeast, or did you use starter AND yeast?

    1. I have done both. If my starter is nice and active, I will skip the yeast. If I haven't been tending it very regularly, I use starter and about half of the recipe's yeast.

  4. Jessica - what proportion of water to flour is your starter? I have seen recipes where it is half and half, and I am now trying a starter that is 1 part water to 2 parts flour, so I would assume this version would require addition of water to the Master recipe?


Trying this recipe? A question or a comment? I'd love to hear from you!