Let me begin by saying this is not a review, but a recommendation. I am sure that I won’t be including all the things that are expected of a book review – I don’t want to. I just want to share my experience with a book that has been a source of joy and satisfaction to me for the past few months.
Like many people, when the pandemic hit I was consumed by what needed to be done to provide for my family during lockdown. Whereas many people immediately launched themselves elbow deep into yeasts and sourdough, I found an amazing producer of bread machine mixes and resuscitated my 22 year old bread machine. Really. It is 22 years old! Eventually, though, I decided to try my hand at baking a loaf from scratch. My initial efforts were decent enough to please my family members, but not of a standard that I was satisfied with so I looked further. I found a Craftsy class featuring Zoe Francois called Artisan Bread in Minutes. It seemed almost like cheating, but I decided to take the class anyway and have never really looked back.
After enjoying her classes and having some successes in the kitchen, I decided to find out more about Zoe and that is when I discovered that she had several books co-written with Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. I decided to purchase The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I already knew the basics from having taken Zoe’s class, but was blown away by the extent of this book once I got it home and started reading it.
The general premise of the book is that you can make beautiful and delicious loaves with only minutes spent on the process each day. Who wouldn’t be on board with that? It is actually an extensive exploration of the no-knead bread concept. In this case, you mix a large batch of dough, let it rise for a couple of hours and then store it in the refrigerator for one to two weeks depending on what type of dough you are making. As the dough sits, it develops more flavor and is at the ready whenever you are. The master dough upon which the whole concept is based on can be turned into all sorts of different breads depending on the method used to bake it and any additions used such as olives or cheese, but this book goes way beyond that concept and includes peasant loaves, flatbreads, pizzas, gluten-free breads and enriched breads and pastries. So far, I have made white bread, an olive couronne, pain d’epi, cheese bread, peasant bread, rye bread, breadsticks, fougasse, naan, and oatmeal pumpkin bread. I have not even scratched the surface of what is in this book. I think it will keep me occupied for years.
Just this week I decided to explore the recipe for bagel dough. The recipe makes about 4 pounds of dough and can be made into bagels, bialys or soft pretzels. So far I have made my first batch of bagels and pretzels. The pretzels were quite tricky to work with as expected because no-knead dough is quite wet, but although they didn’t look as I had imagined, they tasted good. Next up will be bialys. I have never had a bialy before, but from what Ray and Tom have told me, I will love it!
To sum it up, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in baking bread whether experienced or not. It makes bread baking accessible and is a great way to try explore new types of bread baking.