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Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Bret’s Table had an amazing day baking bread with Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg, authors of, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” published by St. Martin’s Press.

Jeff, a physician and Zoë a pastry chef, (and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY) struck up a conversation one day as their children were in music class. Jeff lamented how time consuming bread baking can be. He explained how he’s been tinkering with streamlining and simplifying the process for years. Fortunately, the two put their heads together to compile a book that may revolutionize home bread baking.

Though flour, yeast, salt and water have been used for centuries to make bread, the method that they have developed is extraordinary. Delicious boules, pizza dough or wonderful naan can be made in no “time” (in bread baking time). The “dough” sits for about two hours to rise with no kneading involved. Now mind you kneading bread dough is not a bad thing, but some people either don’t have the time nor the strength or dexterity for such tasks. With their method, if you want bread in 2 hours, 1 1/2 hours into the rising time, preheat you oven (along with a baking stone if you have one) to anywhere between 425 – 525 degrees depending on what your baking.

Form the dough in the your desired shape, whether it be a Boule, Baguette or Pain d’ Epi; if it’s Pizza you desire, roll out the dough, add your favorite toppings and bake them off. The dough that is not used can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It’s ready to use when you’re ready to bake!

Tune into Minnesota Public Radio’s The Splendid Table with Lynn Rossetto Kasper on Saturday, December 15, 2007 to hear Zoë and Jeff’s bread baking success stories.

Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (St. Martin Press, 2007)

Time: About 5 minutes plus about 2 hours rising

1 ½ tablespoons yeast
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
6 ½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
3 cups lukewarm water
cornmeal, if using

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).

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. (If you do not want cornmeal in your oven, place the dough on a piece of parchment paper atop your pizza peel.)

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

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.

Variation: If not using stone, stretch rounded dough into oval and place in a greased, nonstick loaf pan. Let rest 40 minutes if fresh, an extra hour if refrigerated. Heat oven to 450ºF for 5 minutes. Place pan on middle rack. and bake.