I’ve always been a do-it-yourself type of guy. I’ve taught myself to fix bikes, grow my own vegetables, and make websites, but making bread always seemed really hard. The mysterious process of dough rising was prone to failure, and baking felt like a chemistry experiment in which slightly mismeasured ingredients inevitably doomed the entire process.
Then I read a short article by the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day published on the website of one of my favorite D.I.Y. agriculture magazines, Mother Earth News [pro tip: the essentials of the process are described in the article, so you can read this to try the basic recipe out before getting the book]. Chatham Community Library has a subscription, so check it out. The directions sounded ridiculously easy: mix up the dough, put it in the refrigerator, shape some into a ball when you want bread and bake. No kneading, no monitoring the rising involved.
And I made bread! My first loaf wasn’t perfect, but it was delicious and I made it. Since that day three months ago, I haven’t bought a single loaf of bread. I bake bread at least once a week and I’ve refined my technique, bought a baking stone, and made challahs and rolls and whole wheat breads. As a caveat, I will say that Hertzberg and Francois’ bread-making method yields fairly heavy, moist bread (think French baguette rather than fluffy American sandwich bread), so if that isn’t your style, you might not enjoy this bread. And, to quibble with the title a bit, it’s more like 15 minutes a day than 5 minutes to mix up the dough and refrigerate it. However, if you’re ready to revolutionize your home baking (no kidding!), I urge you to read Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.