Cookbook Review: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

So I'm on my way back to America in about a week. Which means jet lag. Which means lots of cooking because what the heck else am I going to be doing at 4a in Small Town, Connecticut? My favorite part of jet-lag cooking is baking. It's fun and comforting to get a good fresh-bread smell going in our place after its been mostly empty for the winter.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois is an interesting book. The fundamental idea here is that kneading is optional in making bread.  The breads in this book all come from one 'master recipe' for a very wet, (unbleached white) wheat flour dough (although whole wheat works fine for me with the method).

The book: The book is attractive, but the use of some fussy fonts in the titles bothers me a bit. They've chosen a typeface that you can easily mis-read.  Fortunately, they don't use it for ingredient lists. There are about 10 drool-worthy color plates in the center of the book. After some lengthy sections on technique it's organized by types of breads 'Peasant loaves', 'Flatbreads & Pizzas' and 'Enriched Breads and Pastries' are the main sections.

The method described is actually simpler than the five chapters describing it would have you believe. Essentially, chuck your ingredients together, put them away to rise, refrigerate the dough, pull it out to rise again, bake. There are lots of good tips and techniques and some specifics of cloaking the dough, preparing the oven and using pizza peels etc. to achieve a good crust.

After that, the sky is pretty much the limit. I especially like how well the doughs freeze. I can make a bunch of pizza shells and use them when I need them without having to give the kids a scary frozen pizza. I also suspect you can save a fair amount of money by simply not buying prepared bread anymore. I don't have the discipline to keep a starter going all the time, but when I do, the results from this book are very satisfactory.

Overall, it's great book to own. Especially if you have a large family or lots of visitors and people are going to be eating bread everyday.

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