I have identified one of my top books of 2010 and it is a cookbook. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is subtitled “The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking” and revolutionizes is the right word. I have been baking bread for years now and have NEVER had such excellent and uniform results.
You know that bread you see in the bakery for $8 a loaf? Now you can make that bread. And it’s fast. And it’s easy. And it’s fool-proof. If you’ve ever enjoyed bread, baked bread, wanted to bake bread, tried to bake bread, failed to bake bread or find that the thought of bread baking sends you into panic mode, this book will change your life. I mean that. It’s that amazing.
I was skeptical of the simplicity of this method at first. Most bread recipes are impossibly complicated, require a lot of expensive additional ingredients, require a TON of kneading, and still yield dicey results. But since Lora from Vitafamiliae reviewedArtisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day positively, I thought I would give it a try, and I’m glad I did.
The basic dough recipe (which makes a boule loaf or baguette) is composed of water, yeast, salt and flour. No additions. You mix it by hand in a few seconds in a plastic container, let it rise for two hours on the counter, and then refrigerate it. When you’re ready to bake, you sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, grab a grapefruit sized ball of dough, shape it into a ball and let it rest. Then you pour a cup of water into a pan in your preheated oven, slide in the dough, and in 30 minutes you have a PERFECT loaf of crusty bread with a soft, perfectly textured, delicious inside. I’ve made the bread six times so far and have gotten amazing results every time. My family is raving about this bread.
In addition to the basic recipe, the book also includes a lot of other intriguing doughs to make with the refrigeration premise, including Limpa (orange, honey, cardamom bread), Oatmeal Pumpkin, Spinach Feta, Za’atar flatbread, Na’an, bagels and bialys. There are lots of bread-based recipes that I’d like to try too, including Aubergine Tartine, Panzanella, Red Pepper Fougasse, and Fattoush.
One very helpful section of the book discusses different flours and how to use them in the recipes, which I like because different types of whole grain flours behave differently in baking. If you grind your own grain or use alternative grains, you should still be able to work out these recipes fairly simply.
One of the authors of the book is a scientist and the other is a professional bread baker. From what I read and the recipes I tried, I think they worked out an excellent system. I think some of the early low star reviews on Amazon might have been for an earlier edition of this book than the one I have, because their complaints seem to have been addressed in the more recent edition. I also think perhaps some of the low star givers were bread bakers who were annoyed that regular people could make artisan bread easily. Even so, the bulk of the Amazon reviews were 5 stars (nearly 500 five stars compared to 16 one stars).
I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to make truly artisan quality bread quickly and easily at home. I appreciate people who are masters at the nuances of rising and kneading and windowpane-ing and steam puffing and whatnot, but I don’t have time for that at this point in my life, and I can’t afford to pay premium prices to buy artisan breads (though I do think it’s important to support local business and agriculture, I think the higher good is living within your means and still feeding your family). If you’re in the same boat I highly recommend this book to you – it’s an excellent resource!