Wednesday 13 November 2013

Cookery book review : The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day - Jeff Herzberg, M.D. & Zoë François

A couple of years ago, I reviewed Jeff Herzberg, M.D., and Zoë François' original Five Minute Bread book - you can read that review here. I must admit that, although I loved the concept and tried out some of the recipes, the book had somehow got pushed to the back of the cookery book shelf and I'd gone back to using the bread machine.

When I received a copy of their new and revised tome - The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day - along with a bag of flour and a sachet of yeast, it was just the nudge I needed to reconnect with the hands-on, bread machine-free technique for having fresh bread on the table every day. Based on fan feedback, Jeff and Zoe have added a gluten-free chapter, answers to readers’ frequently asked questions, 40 all-new colour photos and 30 new recipes including everything from flatbreads and pizzas to enriched breads and pastries. There is a recipe for Caramel Pecan Rolls that I spotted that I can't wait to try out.

I read the first few pages then headed straight off to the kitchen - the whole point of this book is that you don't need to overthink things. There's not even any proving the yeast or kneading involved, which always seems strange to me, but it really does work. I put the flour, water and yeast in a bowl and wandered off to do my own thing for a couple of hours. 

When I came back, I was amazed to see that it has trebled in size and filled the whole bowl ! My previous attempts at making bread, with or without the bread machine, have never been so voluminous !

Following the insanely simple French Boule recipe, I hacked off a piece of the dough, gently gave it a gluten cloak (it's not as complicated as it sounds - I just coated it in flour with floury hands !) then tossed it in the oven on a greased piece of baking parchment.

About half an hour later (to be honest, I didn't even check the time - I just waited until delicious bread smells started wafting out of the kitchen !), I went and pulled this little beauty out of the oven. It honestly looked just like the boules that we buy in France.

The inside had the perfect soft but chewy texture and the crust had just the right amount of crunch. Compared to my usual bread machine bread, tastewise it's probably about the same, but it does have a few distinct advantages - you don't rip the bread to bits removing the paddles so you get perfect slices, it's perfectly imperfect (I love the natural shape it takes) and you get a real sense of achievement having produced it with your own fair hands and nothing else. It's also failproof, unlike the bread machine which has the occasional disaster that doesn't mix or cook properly.

Still warm from the oven, topped with a slab of Cornish butter, it is a thing of beauty, guaranteed to put a smile on your face when you come back from a drizzly, cold school run !

The bad news is, when I got home from work then next day, the whole lot had disappeared at lunchtime. It was 5pm. My normal bread machine programme lasts for 3 hours so it would have been impossible to make a fresh batch of bread using that. But that is the utter beauty of this system. I took the bowl out of the fridge, hacked off a piece of dough, tossed it in the oven (using the same greased parchment and baking tray that was sitting in there from the day before) and within half an hour, we had fresh bread waiting to be devoured for tea.

The dough that we made is supposed to last for up to 2 weeks. I've had one small loaf and one large loaf out of it so far and there is just enough left to make one more small loaf whenever we need it - probably tomorrow, judging by how quickly it is disappearing. But it is so quick and simple to throw together that I'll definitely be making another batch straight afterwards. You don't even need to wash the bowl - it adds an extra sourdough flavour to it apparently - which makes it even quicker and simpler.

I'll be working through the book and trying out some of the different recipes, once we've got bored of rediscovering the great taste of totally fresh, handmade bread - which probably won't be for a while yet. If you think making fresh bread without a machine is complicated, fiddly or time-consuming, you really do need to have a look at this book. You'll be surprised !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP :  £18.52

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; Revised edition (22 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250018285
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250018281
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 19.6 x 3.8 cm

for more information :

Disclosure : I received the book, as well as the ingredients, in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Cookery book review : Stewed! : Nourish Your Soul - Alan Rosenthal

1 comment:

  1. That bread looks very delicious! I can't believe it was so easy to make! Wonderful photos and post.


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