Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.
St. Martin's Press: NY, 2007.

All of my adult life I have wanted to make good crusty breads. After having my second child, I did try, using a book written for bread machines. The idea was to mix with the bread machine and bake in the oven. The dough was too sticky to handle. The bread ended up too heavy, and I still had a mess to clean up.

My first reaction to this title is that it must be an exaggeration. After reading the introduction and mixing a batch, I learned that the hands on preparation is really that short and simple. Hertzberg (a chemist) and François (a professional baker) systematically worked through the baking process, eliminating unneeded, time-consuming procedures. Those who have made or tried to make bread know that mixing and kneading, rising, shaping, and cleaning all add to the aggravation of making bread. In the Five Minutes a Day approach, mixing is simple and quick. It can be done with a wooden spoon in a couple minutes, cutting down on cleanup. There is no kneading. You mix, let it rise for two hours and refrigerate. You make a large amount and take out only the amount needed each time. Shape it quickly, let it rise for a short time on the wooden paddle you use to put it in the oven (or a baking pan), then bake (with a small amount of water in a pan underneath). It is easy enough that teens and pre-teens with oven experience could make the bread. And amazingly there is little mess.

The basic recipe does what it says it does. I had good (not just edible) bread on the first try. I'm ready to move on to the next bread type (after only one batch). The basic is white bread. Variations include rye, wheat, pumpernickel, olive, oat, potato, semolina, bagels, flatbreads, and dessert breads. There are more, but these are common breads. Some require more ingredients, others different handling.

A pizza stone and peel (paddle) are recommended, for ease and proper baking. The two factors that are easiest to mess up are the amount of dough you shape and bake and the time for baking, since the amount is not very specific and the amount affects the time. Read from the beginning through the master recipe before making a batch. There are techniques and things you should know about ingredients before baking.

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