“Five Minute Bread” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

Making bread. It seems such a satisfying thing to do but something about the yeast and the kneading has always made it seem a little unappealing to me, not to mention time-consuming, so bread making has always been something on my mental “to do” list.

“Five Minute Bread” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë Francois, published by Ebury Press, is the British edition of the best-selling “Artisan Bread (in five minutes a day)” from the USA. It is the number one baking and number one bread book in the States. That is no easy achievement.

There are no pictures in the book, which, although a little disappointing, does not spoil the reading, as it is very well illustrated by Emma Lofstrom (www.emmalofstrom.se) and easy to read. In fact on reading, it all seems a little too easy to make this bread. No kneading is required, I repeat, no kneading! No machines are required! This was sounding too good. I was yet to be convinced.

The five minutes refers to the preparation time and does not include the baking and rising time, which are both extra. You make up a large batch of dough, enough for up to 4 loaves. This dough can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks, and you then just pull off a chunk from it and bake it as you need it. The title “Five Minute Bread” seemed a little ambitious for me but I was up for the challenge.

I would recommend reading the first few pages of the book to become familiar with the “five minute method” and to make sure you have all the required equipment to hand. You will need a large container with a lid (not tight fitting) and the book says to use a pizza peel to transfer the bread onto the baking stone. As I don’t have one I just used a flat metal cookie / biscuit tray, and this was perfectly functional.

I will save you a little time here, as all the recipes call for “unbleached flour”. I looked all over for unbleached flour and could not find it in any of the major supermarkets. After some investigating it seems that it is not a legal process to bleach flour in the UK so all flour here is sold unbleached. Lucky for us!

I made the first recipe in the book, which is called “The Master Recipe”.

My first loaf of the batch admittedly took me quite a bit longer than 5 minutes to prepare. The mixing of the dough was bliss, I literally just worked it all in with a wooden spoon.  The “gluten cloak”did take me longer than a minute as it all kept sticking to my hands, but eventually I had a little dough ball that I was happy with.  I struggled with the “dust and slash” as my knife repeatedly got caught in the dough. Also I could not perfect the “quick forward jerking motion of the wrist” required to slide the loaf onto the baking stone in the oven. My loaf would not come off the biscuit baking tray so I half shook and half dragged it off. Despite my less than perfect technique I ended up with a loaf of bread that actually tasted delicious.

I felt a little more comfortable the second time I used the recipe, although I still struggled to get the loaf into the oven and again the knife got stuck in the dough when slashing.

My third loaf of the batch was the best. I was faster and as the dough had been in the fridge for 2 weeks it was more sourdough tasting, which was an added bonus. Although I had enough dough for four loaves, I made three larger loaves.

The Master recipe is just one of many, and there are recipes for lots of other delicious sounding breads and also some recipes for using up the bread you bake. There is the Panzanella recipe that uses the European Peasant  Bread, and the Portuguese Fish Stew to dip the Broa (Portuguese Corn Bread) into. There are sweet recipes such as the delicious sounding Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls or Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding. So much to choose from and all with the same easy to follow instructions.

So I baked bread – what a miracle! My husband and I loved it, it tasted as if I had paid far too much money at the local delicatessen for it. To begin with it may not have been as pretty as if I had bought it from the deli, but it tasted wonderful nonetheless. It was much cheaper and I know exactly what ingredients went into it.  It did take me longer than five minutes to make, but I’m sure that time will decrease as I become more experienced.

What “Five Minute Bread” did give me was confidence to try something that I previously thought too much effort. I will be using this book a great deal more in the future. As well as perfecting my five minute technique I want to try the light wholemeal bread, the olive bread and the bagels. I highly recommend this book to all foodies who think that bread making is too hard, too time consuming and too strenuous. It will prove you wrong!

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