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Jan 27, 2008 04:40 PM

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day - Review

I read a review of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois and had to buy myself a copy of the book. I love fresh baked bread, but never seem to make it as often as I would like. This cookbook has master recipes for boule, challah, olive oil dough, bagels, light whole wheat to name just a few plus variations to make lots of different kinds of breads from the recipes.

The "secret" is to make enough dough for several loaves and store it in the refrigerator. You mix up a master batch of dough, let it rise for 2 hours and then you can shape and bake or store in the frig to use over the next couple weeks. When you want to bake the refrigerated dough, you just taake out as much as you need, add ingredients to make different recipes, shape into loaves, let rise for 20 minutes and bake.

I made a batch of olive oil bread yesterday and left it in my refrigerator. Tonight for dinner I made a piece into rosemary focaccia. It was delicious and my prep time was 5 minutes. It took longer for the oven to heat up.

I highly recommend this book for all the bread lovers out there.

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  1. My husband and I are really enjoying this book. So far I've made the basic recipe, sun dried tomato and the spinach feta (flavor is subtle). Results have been good even with just a regular cookie sheet.

    I was disappointed in the cinnamon rolls however.

    I'm definitely trying the olive dough next. Has anyone tried the oatmeal bread or the challah?

    1 Reply
    1. re: lvhkitty

      This is different than the no-knead bread, isn't it?

    2. There is an additional 'secret': the water content of the dough is much more than kneaded bread, and it has to be, because the liquid helps break down the flour so the yeast can feed on it and produce a rise. Traditional bakers, like my s.i.l., refuse to accept this, but it does work.
      Thanks for the reviews. I have used the freebie recipe in the Times, but the book offers so much more, and I will get a copy.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jayt90

        What's to refuse to accept -- Harrold McGee responded to the no knead bread by saying that it's true, it will work.

        1. re: brittle peanut

          Right, not to mention that lots of bakers use very high hydration doughs because it lends that big, open crumb that so many people like.

      2. I've made the basic recipe, the peasant loaf, and the bagels (the regular ones, not the Montreal ones). I've found the dough rather hard to work with when pulling it out of the bin. It sticks to my hands before I have the chance to sprinkle more flour on to it. Having a third hand would probably help. Lacking that, I often have one of my kids standing by with the flour shaker. How do you all deal with handling the dough and shaping the loaves?

        Regarding taste, I liked the peasant bread a little more than the basic loaf. It had a better flavor with the little bit of whole wheat and rye flours in it. The bagels tasted good, but they took much longer to bake than the recipe said. I had to turn up the oven another 25 degrees and still had to leave them in an extra 5 or 10 minutes until they would get brown. They weren't very pretty to look at, but they did taste pretty good. They were a lot of work, though, and I'll probably stick to Brueggers.

        lvhkitty, what disappointed you with the cinnamon rolls? I was looking forward to trying them, although I have a feeling they won't look anything like the pictures in the book, based on the texture of the things I've already baked from it.

        13 Replies
        1. re: AmyH

          Amy -- As far as getting the dough out of the bowl in the fridge -- it is very stretchy and elastic. What I did was pull a bunch out (I've been baking a "grapefruit sized" blob for the two of us for dinner) and then take a scissors to cut the dough away from the mass in the bowl. Not sure if that's "proper" technique, but it's worked fine for me.

          1. re: karykat

            I guess I have kinda small hands, so I have a hard time pulling out a grapefruit sized blob with just one hand. But when I get the other hand involved is when I start having sticky problems, since that side of the dough hasn't been floured like the top has. I have a dough scraper that I use to cut the dough against the side of the container. Scissors is a good idea, too.

            1. re: AmyH

              how about using a smallish, thin-lipped bowl to scoop out dough against the inside of the container? Intuition tells me it would work.

              1. re: toodie jane

                That's a good idea. I'm actually getting a lot better at scooping the dough. It gets much better with practice. Still kind of hard to judge the size of the dough ball, though.

                1. re: AmyH

                  I've been judging the size simply by halving or quartering the amount of dough, depending on whether I've made half a batch or a whole one. That seems to be working well so far.

          2. re: AmyH

            I probably made the mistake of using less butter than the recipe required. I was underwhelmed. I'm going to try it with a different filling but same concept.

              1. re: lvhkitty

                I didn't find any recipe for cinnamon rolls in the book, but this weekend I did make the caramel pecan rolls. They were fabulous. I used the challah dough for them, which is what the book recommends, although you can use other doughs as well. I found the challah dough to be very easy to work with. I had been worried about rolling out and messing with such a moist dough, but I didn't have any trouble at all except for a bit of initial sticking to my hands when I first pulled it out of the rising container. But with some flour on the outside it was fine. One problem I will note is that the butter/sugar mixture on the bottom bubbled out and overflowed the pan. I happen to notice this right before it happened and quickly got a baking sheet covered with foil onto the rack underneath the rolls. I was glad I did; it was covered with burnt sugar and melted butter when I pulled it out afterward. The book doesn't say to put anything under the rolls, but I highly recommend that you do. Also, the 9 inch cake pan didn't seem big enough. I may have pulled out too much dough (I have a hard time judging "canteloupe sized"), but I think I'll make them in a 10 inch pie plate next time. I'm sure there will be a next time. The kids really enjoyed them.

                1. re: AmyH

                  I made the caramel cinnamon rolls this weekend (Feb 3) -- the recipe does include a cinnamon, sugar, and pecan spread that's rolled up in the dough. It is then baked in a butter, brown sugar, and pecan glaze that caramelizes as it bakes. Unlike AmyH, my rolls did fine in a 9" cake pan and I had no trouble with too much liquid as they baked. I used the book's brioche dough as the base rather than the challah -- and the result was scrumptious.

              2. re: AmyH

                I use the wet hands method that they use for some of the non-floured doughs, its a lot less sticky and in my case less likely to leave a big puff of flour somewhere to clean up. win-win

                1. re: Sally599

                  An easy method of handling wet dough: latex gloves, rinsed free of residue or talc,
                  and lightly coated with cooking oil. I prefer the wet hands method,but this way is cleaner.

                2. re: AmyH

                  You can pull the dough out with a spray of PAM on one hand, or both hands.

                  A method I use to get cold dough rising again is to put it in the microwave oven for 1 minute at power level 1 (the lowest). This gets a bit of gentle heat into the center right away.

                  1. re: AmyH

                    I have a squared off bucket that I use and I take those dough scrapers that usually have little to no purpose, use it to quarter the dough, and just take a lump at a time (sometimes I have to recut if i leave it too long between uses).

                  2. I've been wondering about this book--I actually gave it as Christmas gifts to a couple of folks I know who love to bake bread. Just curious--how does it compare to Bittman's "no knead" recipes? Is it similar to that or am I completely off-base?


                    6 Replies
                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      The Basic Crusty Bread is very similar in general procedure and water content. Much shorter rising time and way more yeast (which makes sense as a pair). I can't speak for any of the other recipes since I don't actually have the book...I just have that one recipe.

                      1. re: wawajb

                        If you look on the artisan bread website, they have a lower yeast version, too....

                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I was anxious to compare the Bittman bread as well because I have loved it. So far, I've made the basic master bread recipe. The crust on the "5 minutes a day" bread was excellent. Maybe even better than Bittman's in my experience. Very crusty. The texture inside was dense and even, not like the Bittman bread which had a more open texture with holes (at least for me). The flavor was very good. I think I may prefer the Bittman bread -- but just by a hair.

                        All that said, the 'five minute a day" bread will be my new standard. It is very little work to put a batch together. Then you can have fresh bread every day for a week by just pulling a bit of dough out, letting it rise and baking. This book is going to save us a fortune in fresh bread. And we have been marveling at the quality of it.

                        I'm not sure the Bittman bread couldn't be stored in the fridge and baked this way over the course of a week as well. Someone should try that.

                        1. re: karykat

                          see my response above....since the recipe can be adapted to a lower yeast version, I would say it should work....

                          1. re: eLizard

                            Not sure what you are saying. Do you think the Bittman dough could be stored in the fridge and baked like the "5-minute" bread? Has anyone tried that?

                            It would seem from looking at the ingredients that it should work.

                            1. re: karykat

                              Yes, that is exactly what I'm saying..... sorry for the confusion.

                      3. I have the book on order but have made two batches with the freebie recipe. Actually, my 5-year-old made the second batch - bread so easy a child can make it. It took her Mom to screw it up. I forgot to put it in the fridge after the 2 hours and it sat out overnight. Refrigerated it the next morning, baked a loaf 3 days later, and - other than a yeasty flavor due to the overproofing - it came out just fine. This is a very forgiving recipe.

                        My only problem has been transferring the loaf onto the stone. I don't have a peel so I've been using the back of a flat cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Every last time the dough sticks to the sheet and my bread comes out tasty but oddly shaped. Any thoughts or suggestions, please?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: rockycat

                          Use parchment or the nonstick aluminum foil. I've used both and it's worked great. Put the dough on a sheet of either when you take it out of the fridge to rise. Then put the dough with the parchment or foil on the stone. Easy to transfer. And it doesn't seem to interfere with the heat from the stone.

                          1. re: karykat

                            Good idea using the parchment! I'm going to try that, too. I've also had problems with some loaves sticking to the peel. It seems to have to do with how much flour I am able to coat the outside of the dough with. If it's the least bit wet or sticky on the bottom it will stick to the peel, even with a lot of flour or cornmeal. I find it really hard to lift out the chunk (grapefruit sized) of dough, cut it away from the rest, and sprinkle it with flour, and shape it with only 2 hands.

                            1. re: AmyH

                              I'm not a baker, but after reading about this in the Chicago Trib, I had to try it. We've had fresh bread for two weeks straight. This is awesome!

                            2. re: karykat

                              I did try parchment on the 3rd loaf and I felt that I didn't get as nice a bottom crust as I did on the previous loaves. I even put cornmeal on the parchment because I like the texture. I decided that I prefered the mutated blobs with great crusts to the nicer boule with a slightly softer crust. Thanks for the thought, though.