Book Review: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

published Feb 20, 2008
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The host of no-knead recipes from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day have been making quiet ripples through the baking community, and we felt that it was time take a look for ourselves to see what the hubbub was all about.

Given that this book was likely in production around the time when Jim Lahey’s recipe appeared in the New York Times, we were curious to see how they compared.

A physician and a pastry chef make an unlikely author team for a book on no-knead breads, but Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois share a passion for baking that speaks for itself in the enthusiasm and detail they have put into their writing.

The first few chapters provide a comprehensive yet accessible introduction to ingredients, tools, and techniques, including one entire section devoted to problem-shooting our baking mishaps — we think we’ll find this section particularly helpful!

Side bars reinforce key points and photos illustrate difficult concepts. Along with their master no-knead bread recipe, the authors include variations for using different grains and for making rich breads like brioche, challah, and sticky buns. Reading through the book feels like having a nice chat over coffee with a good friend, albeit one who knows a lot about bread!

The concept for no-knead bread that the authors outline is one that has become familiar since last year’s no-knead bread phenomenon: combine water, yeast, salt, and flour in a bowl and let sit. However, there are some key differences. While Mark Lahey’s recipe relied on a small pinch of yeast and a long fermentation period before baking, this recipe uses over a tablespoon of yeast and a relatively quick two-hour fermentation, after which you can bake a loaf right away or store the dough in your fridge for up to two weeks.

The resulting dough also has a firmer structure that doesn’t rely on a Dutch oven for its shape when baking. Loaves can be easily formed into a variety of shapes, allowing bakers a versatility that other no-knead doughs do not. Each recipe makes four loaves, so fresh bread is a simple matter of lobbing off a piece of refrigerated dough, letting it come to room temperature, and baking it off.

The recipes do indeed live up to the author’s promises. Our artisan boule made from the master recipe had a nicely browned and crackling crust with a chewy, nutty-flavored interior. (Those of you who thought Lahey’s recipe lacked depth of flavor might like to give this approach a try!) Loaves baked on subsequent days from refrigerated dough didn’t develop as much in flavor as we had expected from the authors’ descriptions, but they were certainly as good as the first one and were devoured just as fast. We also tried their recipes for rye bread and challah, both with positive results.

Have any of you tried recipes from this book? How do you think they stand next to other no-knead recipes?

We received permission to share a No-Knead Challah recipe from the book:
No-Knead Challah

More No-Knead Bread:
No-Knead Bread in a Hurry
No-Time Bread
• Bittman’s No-Knead Bread Phenomenon
Dutch Oven Roundup
Dutch Oven Alternatives

This is by Emma, who is up for one of our new writer positions. Welcome Emma!

(Image credits: All bread images by Emma Christensen for The Kitchn. Cover image from “Artisan Bread” credits: Cover design by Jennifer Huntsman, cover photograph by Mark Luinenburg.)