Saturday, March 7, 2009

Artisan bread - in 5 minutes? My first attempt...

Last week, one of my cousins announced that she bought this great new book "Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking " by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. This just sounded too good to be true! If Cate can do it with 3 young kids, so could I! She was kind enough to pass along the basic bread recipe so that I wouldn't have to go out and buy a copy just for this and so I thought I'd give it a shot and impress my guests tonight. It was my eldest daughter's 18th birthday yesterday but she had her semi-formal at school and so we're celebrating tonight with a couple of friends.

So, I was so excited yesterday about attempting to make this bread so I checked my yeast that had been sitting in the cupboard for at least two years but in an airtight Tupperware container. With high hopes, I tried testing it with sugar and warm water and of course, it was dead. I made my husband drop me off at Walmart at 9 pm last night so I could pick up a new can of yeast. With 5 kids and a hubby who all love bread, plus company this evening, if this bread is as yummy as the stuff I buy, one batch just isn't going to go very far so I used the double recipe.

My first attempt was a disaster. Instead of 6 cups of water, I only put 3 (don't know what I was thinking) for a double batch for 4 - 1 lb. loaves. I couldn't salvage it because there were too many doughy lumps that I couldn't get out even with the bread hook. Needless to say, my green bin is very heavy with a sticky mess. I mixed it in a Kitchen Aid Heavy-duty stand-up mixer because it was too difficult to mix with a wooden spoon.

I came across another blog of angelnina and she has the art of making 5 minute bread down and it looks fab!!

Here's a video where the authors of the book were featured on a morning show promoting their book. You can watch it and see how easy it actually is to make this delicious basic recipe.

The first photo is of the batch in the green bin. Here's my loaf at 30 minutes after rising and then again after 3 hours! Remember, this is the doubled recipe for 4 loaves. I didn't time the oven (just eyeballed for colour) and did heat up a Pampered Chef stone to bake it on. I don't own a pizza paddle (yet - ha!), so I used a flexible cutting board and it worked fine. To remove from the oven, I just picked the bread up with my oven mitts.

The appearance doesn't look anything like the photos in the book nor like angelnina's, but it tasted very yummy. It was a bit on the salty side. I measured out 2 -1/2 tbsp. of salt and then my dispenser ran out. Instead of filling the rest of the tbsp., I emptied it and then eyeballed another 1/2 tbsp. DUH!! I did know that I poured too much but threw it in anyway. I didn't think that it would make such a huge difference. Texture was perfect. Appearance? A little on the uglier side but not bad for a first attempt.

The long stick (it was half eaten before the picture was taken) was baked on convection and the round loaf was baked on regular conventional mode. The convection was definitely the way to go, giving it a crispier crust as opposed to the conventional oven which gave it a chewier crust. Both were good and gobbled up in no time! Yes, everyone enjoyed it and definitely was a hit. My daughter said it tastes just like the ones I buy. Ugly or not, it all went down the same. Next time I turn a bun out, hopefully it'll look like it came
straight out of the baker's oven.

PS. I just realized that I forgot to put the cup of boiling water into the oven for steam. It was still perfect. I'll write an update when i bake the next loaf with the water.

Five Minutes a day Bread

Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough

3 cups lukewarm water


1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).

2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Yield: 4 loaves.

PS. Apparently, I've just been told that this bowl size is only big enough for the original recipe (2 loaves).


  1. I'm impressed with your first attempt at being a bread baker. Let us know if you ever get it down to 5 min.

  2. Yay! Happy to hear your final loaf turned out so well. I make this bread all of the time now.
    Thank you for the link and kind words about my blog too.