One of my food goals for 2011 was to bake more bread, so you can imagine how thrilled I was when Zoë François and Ebury Publishing asked me if I’d like to review a copy of her US best-selling book Five Minute Bread (in the US known as Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day), co-written with Jeff Hertzberg. Newly released in January of this year, the book claims to contain a “revolutionary new baking method: no bread machine, no kneading!” – well, for it to be the no. 1 baking book in the US it certainly seems to have caught onto something good here!
When the book arrived I eagerly tore open the packaging, read it from cover-to-cover, and then decided that there was nothing left for me to do but to pull out the flour and yeast and get baking! But why just read what I have to say about the book? Why don’t you decide for yourself? Ebury have very kindly offered to send a copy of the book to one of you guys so that you can have a go at baking from it – how generous is that? For the book review and details of the give-away read on…
The concept of the book is very simple: fresh homemade bread can be easy, here’s how to do it. How much better than that does it get? It’s straight forward, it’s to the point and it’s delicious. Excited really to be baking bread regularly (and fresh bread gets gobbled up in our house in a nanosecond, unlike store-bought which will literally sit for weeks until mouldy. Ew) I decided that the best way to review four days of baking (the standard recipe yields enough for four 250g loaves and my tupperware box was too small to double it, which meant I’d be missing out on the most sourdough-y bread but still getting a little taste) was to do a day-by-day account of my experience. So, without further ado, here we have it!
6pm: So it’s pretty late to start baking bread, but I figure if I prep it now I can bake it in the morning and give it the night to rest in the fridge. Having read through the cookbook this looks pretty simple, but I would say that it’s not really bread in five minutes, it’s more like bread in six hours and fifteen minutes – sure, maybe it takes five minutes to prepare the dough, but then it has to proof for two hours, sit in the fridge for at least three, have its second rise for forty minutes, then go in the oven for thirty. Anyway, it’s all mixed now and sitting in my tupperware box on the kitchen counter. Hope this works!
8pm: Wow! The dough has risen so much it looks like my box is going to burst! Time to put the lid on properly and stick it in the fridge.
9pm: Um, I just opened the fridge to find a dough monster exploding all over the place. Apparently the lid wasn’t on tightly enough and the dough can still rise in the cold?! Cleaned it up, punched it down, put the lid on properly and put it back in the fridge.
11.30pm: Okay, this is ridiculous now, the dough is still rising and spilling out. Just cleaned it up, opened the box and punched the dough down again. I don’t think this is what you’re supposed to be doing…
2.30am: Right, that does it, I’ve just had to punch it down again – I don’t care that it’s 2.30am, I’m bloody baking some of this now.
2.45am: I’m covered in flour and I’ve got a big of a disastrous looking “boule” sitting on my Silpat. It didn’t take 20-40 seconds to form, it took more like 5 minutes. I’m really hoping this process gets easier as I go…
3.25am: The “boule” (read: roadkill) is in the oven. I’m a little worried that during the second rise it not only didn’t rise it, er, spread. The book does say not to worry if it doesn’t rise a lot at this stage as it’ll rise in the oven, but still… I’m blaming the fact that it tried to rise three times in the fridge. I’m trying the steam technique in the book, but I’m a little dubious as to whether or not this is actually going to work. I blame my apparently disastrous bread-making skills.
4.15am: Wow! I’m absolutely amazed at how well this has turned out, despite the fact that everything was apparently against me. It’s a little on the flat side but definitely did rise a lot more in the oven and the bottom looks a bit funky (probably because I used a Silpat and not a pizza stone, as suggested) but it still looks awesome! I’m going to leave it to cool and eat it for my lunch tomorrow. I’ve got just the thing to have with it, too…
1.30pm: I just had some of my bread with my homemade pâté and it is awesome! It has a lovely crust and airy light inside. Mhm, looking forward to baking some more later…
9pm: Finished baking the second “boule” – still had the same problems with it spreading when I let it rest for 40 mins, despite using a slightly different cloaking method. I decided to cloak it again just before baking to see if it made a difference – it did! It’s much taller and more compact than yesterday’s bread. I also decided to turn it upside down for an extra ten minutes to let the bottom get a slightly better crust on it. When I took the finished thing out of the oven it was definitely crackling and “singing”, unlike yesterday. I think I might be getting the hang of this… tomorrow I’ll try only letting it sit for less time after cloaking.
10.30pm: Finished baking “boule” no. three – I only let it rest for about 25-30 mins and it’s the highest one of the lot! It’s definitely a lot smaller than day 1 & 2 though – maybe I overestimated with how much 450g actually was? I’m finding I get a much better crust on the entire bread if I turn it upside down for an extra 10 mins of baking time. I don’t like cutting a cross into it, though – it makes the bread come out square instead of round and it does a weird spread thing. Enough dough for one more boule tomorrow…
5am: Gah! Just woke up – forgot to bake my bread! Doh…
7.30pm: Just finished baking my last loaf of bread after yesterday’s fail to do so – I was so busy all day that I just came home and crashed out. But it appears to have been to my advantage, as the dough spending one more day in the fridge has taken on a very pleasant sharper almost-sourdough-like quality. I shaped today’s loaf into a pain d’epi – a wheat sheaf shape (or at least my slightly doughier version of it). We ate it hot with leftover pâté – delicious.
Despite the difficulties at the beginning with the dough’s never-ending rise in the fridge and my complete inability to shape a boule, this is a really great way to make bread. It may not have taken five minutes literally, but after I’d gotten into the swing of things turning out a loaf of delicious bread was as easy as one-two-three – quite literally: shape the boule, rest the boule, bake the boule. I can see why this revolutionary bread baking method has been such a hit in the States.
I did begin to resort to other boule shaping methods, which though explained well in the book, didn’t help me, a novice boule-shaper. I found it particularly helpful to watch Peter Reinhart’s YouTube videos on boule-shaping – his technique seemed to work the best for me. It never, however, took me 20-40 seconds. Despite this, the book is really pretty great. It is chock-full of recipes – both savoury and sweet – for the more experienced bread baker to attempt, all using the same easy, no-fuss attitude; helpful hints grace the pages where one may be stumbling in the dark; and it’s all written with a really rather charming, matter-of-fact voice. I would recommend it, particularly if regular bread-baking is a habit that you’d like to keep! I’ll certainly be baking more bread now that I know it can be so very simple. Even cleaning up wasn’t a hassle because there’s not masses of flour all over the kitchen and you’re only baking things on one pan – the box just goes back into the fridge! Even better.
So, how would you like to win a free copy of Five Minute Bread? To win a copy, simply riddle me this:
What was your most disastrous baking failure? Tell me your story, no holds barred!
The answer that most tickles my fancy will win the book!
Because this give-away is UK only and I don’t like to leave out my international readers in give-aways, I’m going to pick two winners, one from the UK & one from anywhere else in the world, and I will personally give away an Amazon Gift Card, for the equal value of Five Minute Bread, to the answer that most tickles my fancy! Am I generous or what? The give-away will finish at the end of the month, midnight (GMT) on the 30th April, 2011 which’ll give you plenty of time to send me your best story! What are you waiting for? Get submitting!
That’s all for now then, folks, but stay tuned for more very soon. Until then, peace and love.
Please note, I have received no monetary compensation for reviewing the book, but Ebury Publishing provided me with a copy to review and an extra copy to give away. All opinions expressed are my own.