Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

The way my friend Sierra responded when I tried to show her this book mirrored my own reluctance to take on yet another fad – and then my quick acceptance and now championing of the book by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

It went something like this:

Sierra, you have to check out this book.

Aren’t you going to blog about it? I’ll try it after you blog about it.

You really get fresh baked bread every day for hardly any work…

Can you summarize?

Just look at the recipe – it’s two pages! Amazing bread! You should see the picture at Jaimie’s blog! I thought it was a picture from the book, but it was HER bread – her first loaf!

OK, let me see that… (pause) … Can I borrow this for one night?

The next day Sierra showed up at the park with fresh-baked artisan bread. And that’s about how it goes.

The basic premise is to mix, not knead, enough dough for several (4-8) loaves of bread and store it in the refrigerator. The dough is very wet and loose, which allows the gluten to align itself properly without kneading with the passage of enough time. When you want a loaf, you cut off a bit, “cloak” it, let it rise and bake. It really only takes five minutes – and we’ve had fresh bread with dinner ever since I put my first batch of dough in the fridge.

Now I love kneading bread, but the bare truth is, that I haven’t done it in years. Although I love fresh-baked bread, the time factor leans heavily in favor of my bread machine. Also, I’ve never made bread that looked so heavenly like European artisanal bread before I tried the recipe in this book.

I am a convert and yes, I am going to share some of the zealous buzz with you – right now.

While I recommend buying and reading this book for more explicit directions, here are enough guidelines for somebody who has already read the book to recreate the bread magic.

1. In a large lidded bowl (I used the ceramic insert of my slow cooker), mix 3 cups warm water, 1 1/2 tablespoons of yeast, and 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt.

2. Mix in 6 1/2 cups flour, using a scoop-and-sweep method.

3. Allow to rise for at least 2 hours or until it begins to collapse.

4. Cover (not airtight) and store in fridge.

5. Before starting to make dinner, throw flour on top of the dough and cut off a grapefruit ball size lump of dough. Cloak it (with well-floured hands – stretch the surface of the dough and tuck underneath itself about 3 times) and put it on a well-floured pizza peel (I used a cutting board).

6. Let it rest for 40 minutes.

7. Begin preheating the oven with a pizza stone, cast iron pan, or cast iron lid already inside. It needs to preheat for at least 20 minutes. An oven thermometer is recommended.

8. Before putting in the bread, slide in a broiler pan with at least one cup of warm water in it into the same oven. That’s for steam.

9. Sprinkle more flour on top of the dough and slash the top a few times.

10. Slide the dough onto the pre-heated pizza stone and bake for 30 minutes.

You won’t believe your eyes.

And the rest of the book is filled with variations on this recipe – including cinnamon buns.

For 8 loaves, remember 6-3-3-13.

6 cups water, 3 T salt, 3T yeast, and 13 cups of flour.

Jaimie's first loaf - her pictures are much better than mine! Click on the pic if you'd like to visit her blog.

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