Saturday, December 27, 2008

New book, new hobby

The other day, I mentioned buying a cookbook on the same day I gave away a stack of cookbooks. Here's the story.

In one of Jonah Lisa's recent posts, she linked to a book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Seeing the title, my interest was piqued. My parents had e-mailed me an Amazon gift certificate for Christmas, so I ordered the book, and it arrived on Christmas Eve. On Christmas I cracked it open, and for the last two days we have enjoyed crusty, fresh-baked bread--quite a feat considering I have not been a bread-baker in the past. (I don't even own loaf pans!)


I know some of you would love the recipe, but I'll have to refer you directly to the copyrighted book for that. I will, however, whet your appetite further by telling you about the unique concepts in the book. Two ideas are key--ease of mixing, and storing bulk dough.

These recipes really are easy. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes to mix up one of their bulk bread dough recipes--no proofing of the yeast or kneading required. I reduced the recipe the first time and mixed it in my food processor, but last night I used a wooden spoon, and it was even quicker, since I didn't have to wash the food processor bowl and blade.

The recipes are large, and after letting the dough rise, you store it in the fridge. When you want to bake a loaf, it takes about five minutes of actual work to form the loaf, flour and slash the top, and get it in the oven. The instructions for the basic loaf include using a preheated baking stone and pouring hot water into a preheated broiler pan just before baking. (Steam helps with the crust texture.)

The five minute prep time doesn't include resting/rising time once you've formed the loaf, or baking time. (Resting plus baking time for the basic recipe is 70 minutes.) It also doesn't include the extra time you'll probably spend the first day or two as you figure out the process. For instance, if you use a heat-resistant glass dish instead of a metal pan for the steam, it will take significantly longer than five minutes to clean up the exploded glass from your oven. (Oops--apparently hot tap water is a whole lot cooler than a preheated glass dish.)

The basic recipe (which can be halved or doubled) has four ingredients, makes four one-pound loaves, and can be stored for as long as fourteen days in the fridge. The dough ages as it rests, enhancing the flavor as each day goes by--but our dough didn't last long enough to test that claim!

Over 100 recipes are included in the book. Last night I mixed the 100% whole wheat recipe, which I'm hoping is excellent since it's healthy enough to eat daily! I have a whole wheat loaf rising on the countertop right now. Resting and baking times for whole wheat are significantly longer than for white, so my anxious stomach will have to wait a bit longer. If it turns out well, I'll post a picture.

So, you may be asking, why not just buy a bread machine? Well, when you consider the bulk factor, this is nearly as easy as using a bread machine. If you like the textured crust of artisan bread, this is the way to go--bread machines produce a softer crust. And compared to a bread machine (Amazon's top-selling one is about $115), a book that costs under $20 is a bargain. Add an affordable baking stone, and you can still come in at under $50.

The subtitle of this book is "The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking." My family is already enjoying the fresh-baked bread revolution in our home. Wish you could sit and join us!

Edited at 9:51 a.m....our whole wheat loaf:


Hey--wipe that drool off your keyboard.

One more edit--Thank you, Faith, for the link you gave in your comment! I checked it out and found two links I want to add here:

Blog written by the book's authors, with recipes & tips

Video with the authors showing how to make the master recipe. Watch this and learn to make that delicious, crusty white bread. Then...still buy the book; it's got so much other good stuff in it besides that basic recipe.


Call Me Cate said...

I have a bread machine. It's noisy. And bulky. And it's buried in the bottom of my cabinet where it would be a real production to even get it out and use it. I love the smell of fresh bread though. Hmm, Amazon is such a temptation...

Desert Grace Boutique said...

I am going to have to get that book. I used to have a bread machine and the bread always turned out heavy and flat.
Read this article regarding Pyrex:

C. Beth said...

Call Me Cate--I think that's a common story! I've resisted bread machines because I don't want another appliance on my countertop.

Desert Grace--WOW. What an article! In reading it, I realized, my dish may not have been Pyrex brand. I checked another of my glass dishes, and it was Anchor Hocking, so this may have been too. (Edited original post.) Whatever it was, I sure hope when I bought it, it wasn't advertised as "tempered." It was my fault for putting liquid in it when it was preheated; if I'd thought about it I would have realized that was a no-no. But I can tell you there were sharp SHARDS; if it was "tempered" it wasn't done well. I am very, very lucky I wasn't injured, and that my kids weren't nearby; it exploded with the oven open. I'm really thankful that all we had was a bummer of a cleanup job, not a visit to the ER.

Omah's Helping Hands said...

Mmmm, that looks yummy. I'm going to have to get that book. Thanks for sharing!

Sandra said...

What a great testament to that book! I'm going to go order it right now, along with a baking stone, because I sold all of mine at a garage sale, because I never used them!

I have a bread machine -- Hubby won it at a golf outing about 6-7 years ago, but after we had made 6 loaves of bread in seven days, and eaten same, just the two of us, we realized that we couldn't continue to do that. So, we put it away and it's been stored in a cupboard ever since. This looks good.

Faith said...

I have rented this book from the library on recommendation of a friend of mine. She has a cooking blog & talked about it some weeks ago. You can check out her post on this topic at

C. Beth said...

Omah's--You'll love it!!

Sandra--Oh, good, let me know how it goes. (Post pictures on your blog!)

Faith--Great link--thank you! I edited the original post with some links from your friend's blog.

Lyndsay said...

Yum! That looks outrageously wonderful. However, I am a carb-o-holic and I think having that in our house would be a really, really, really bad thing ...

Anonymous said...

Hi Beth. My mom used to make big loaves like those. I've got some whack decease now. So I can't have bread anymore but I will run it by my wife. She's figured out how to do a lot to get around the gluten that I'm allergic to.

Michelle Brunner said...

Amazing! My mom used to make homemade bread..the smell was so GOOD! These look just beautiful, you did a great job!

Lynn said...

I would be curious how the whole wheat turns out. I have used the regular recipe with part whole wheat, but I have never made 100% whole wheat. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Kerri said...

Totally off topic but when I read the title to your post I thought it said New Book New Hubby! LOL

C. Beth said...

Lyndsay--I admit to having a carb addiction myself. That's why I had to try the whole wheat--healthy carbs are great; it's all that white flour that is pretty junky.

Chris--Gluten allergy--ugh!! FYI, the CrockPot Lady's blog has TONS of gluten-free recipe; her son has a gluten allergy.

Michelle--Thank you! Yes, the smell.... Mmm!

Lynn--The whole wheat turned out quite good. I used the 100% whole wheat recipe on page 76 (I think) of the book. I want to mess with it to give it more flavor, but it was a good, basic honey whole wheat bread.

Kerri--Ha! Gives me an idea for a future post.... Stay tuned.

Scriptor Senex said...

I got a bread machine for my birthday (£8 from an attic sale - not sure what that is in dollars but suffice it to say 'not a lot'). I love it. You can do all sorts of different recipes and vary the crust. As my son - the only other real bread eater in the family - likes that plastic supermarket stuff I thought I'd have the home made bread to myself but it's proved quite popular with my wife as well. I still make the odd loaf in the oven but I really do like the bread machine. Each to their own, as the saying goes.

(I hope there was no food in the oven when the glass exploded!!)

Jeff Hertzberg said...

C Beth: I'm Jeff Hertzberg, one of the co-authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I'm so glad our recipes are working well for you. Come visit us anytime at, where you can post questions into any "Comments" field, or click on "Bread Questions" on the left side of the homepage and choose among the options.

Jeff Hertzberg

Chicago tribune video:

Rambling Rachel said...

Fabulous! Thanks for blogging about it.

Anonymous said...

I made it tonight but it didn't look nearly as pretty as yours'! I think I rushed it because I was hungry :-) but it was still great!

SurvivorBlessing said...

Oh, I know I am sooooo late! I have had the honor to try multiple breads made by your wonderful skillful hands! So I finally gave in and bought the book, bought the stone, and got baking! My hubby loves it and I do too. Thanks Beth.