REVIEW of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

Three months ago I finished out the school year teaching at King’s Academy, and as I “retired” from teaching (in anticipation of the arrival of our twins), I set a new goal for myself: instead of buying bread from the store, I was going to bake all of our bread. So far I have stuck to that plan fairly well. Since the beginning of June, I have made approximately 20 loaves of sandwich bread and have bought exactly two loaves of sandwich bread from the store.

The keyword there, however, is sandwich bread. I have several good recipes for white, wheat, and oatmeal bread and it is tolerably easy to bake sandwich bread that my husband will deign to eat. But when it comes to artisan bread, baking my own seemed to be a more formidable task. I had heard a lot about this kind of bread baking from my sister-in-law but never actually tried to do any of it myself; however, I was keenly aware that a loaf of artisan bread costs a whole $4 at Fred Meyer, and economics can be a powerful motivator. So, on the recommendation of several people, I got the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book (or rather, I borrowed it from the library–it’s on my Amazon wish list right now if you’d like to buy it for me).

This book offers a few basic recipes for making artisan bread that can be modified in many different ways. The most attractive features of this bread baking method are: (1) you don’t have to knead the dough, (2) you can store the dough in the fridge for up to two weeks, and (3) you can make delicious artisan-style bread in just a little over an hour (with only 5 minutes of work on your part in getting it out of the bowl and shaping it).

I mixed up my first batch of dough on Friday night last week and put it in the fridge. Saturday morning I was eager to try baking it. I was at a little bit of a disadvantage because I don’t own a baking stone, but I figured I would just put the bread on a jelly roll pan and see what happened. What happened was a round loaf of bread with a very burnt bottom crust; I realized that even though baking stones are supposed to reside on the lowest rack of the oven, jelly roll pans substituting as baking stones are not. But once the objectionable bottom crust was sliced off, the rest of the loaf tasted delicious. The results pleased me enough that I decided to give it another go–and besides, I still had the rest of the dough in the fridge waiting to be used up.

Today I made my second attempt and garnered much better results. I placed the bread on the top rack of the oven and actually attempted the steam bath that I had omitted from my first baking experiment. It’s better and cheaper than artisan bread from Fred Meyer and a whole lot faster than making sandwich bread with a kneading and two rises. Thanks to everyone who recommended this book! It’s a keeper…or would be, if I didn’t have to take it back to the library in three weeks….

3 Comments

  1. You can bake the loaf in a covered casserole that has preheated with the oven (about 5 minutes) and then stick the lid on as soon as you plop the dough in… yummers! You need to take the foil or lid off for the last 10 min.

    I’ve even used my clay baker for this, and I also did the same thing using my crock for the crockpot… The lids looked too plasticy, so I just topped it with foil.

    Mostly I am too busy for the casserole method, and I just stick my pizza stone in the oven.

  2. Hmmm…don’t you have a birthday coming up?! I love that book and constantly have a bucket of dough in my fridge. Bob’s Red Mill sells a food-grade plastic dough rising container that is perfect for a double batch of AB5D dough. We love it! It makes great focaccia, baguette, and is yummy rolled out thin, drizzled with garlic and olive oil and grilled on the bbq or over a fire. Have fun! Good for you, making all your bread during the warm summer months.

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