Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg met in their children’s toddler music class and bonded over a shared passion for food. Zoë is a trained pastry chef with 20 years experience in professional kitchens. Jeff is a physician-turned-consultant who had been tinkering with bread baking since medical school. Together, they developed a technique that satisfied Zoë’s passion for classic European-style flavors and Jeff’s dedication to finding the easiest and quickest way to get great bread.
The resulting method, first published in “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” in 2007, is unorthodox. They’ve since published four additional cookbooks, but the most common reaction they still receive is skepticism. How can you make bread in just five minutes? Is this just another no-knead method?
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“Artisan Bread in Five” goes beyond no-knead bread, cutting down active preparation time even further. The basic premise is simple: make a large batch of dough—enough for four loaves— and store it in the refrigerator for the next two weeks. When you want to bake a loaf of bread, just tear off a piece of dough, quickly shape it, let it rest, and throw it in the oven. Five minutes of active time and you have fresh, homemade bread.
The length of refrigerator storage time is unique among bread cookbooks, and is made possible by the unusually wet dough. The high moisture allows the bread to develop a chewy gluten structure while forgoing kneading. The long storage lets the dough develop sourdough character without fussing with a starter. The “Artisan Bread in Five” method also gives exact amounts for flour and water measures, instead of encouraging readers to vary the ratios intuitively.
The big batch of pre-mixed dough makes the process much easier, as well as taking a lot of pressure out of the process. Zoë explains that in older methods, “you have one precious loaf and you have to get it right. With our method, there’s more dough if this one doesn’t come out perfectly. We strip away all of those laborious traditional things that people fear, and encourage people to play.”
If you still don’t believe it’s possible, take it from me. Full disclosure, I am Jeff’s daughter. Growing up, I had fresh bread to take to school every single day. We usually baked pita bread in the morning because flatbreads need no rising time and can be ready in the time they take to bake.
The fact is, however, that even avid amateur bakers often refuse to try bread baking for its reputation as being an ordeal—nurturing a starter, kneading and punching down the dough multiple times, and fussing with measurements. But the method has made baking accessible to many who would otherwise be too intimidated, and created a community of bakers online.
The recipe included here is a European peasant bread, taken from “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” the revised edition of the first book. It blends whole wheat, rye, and white flours—a traditional grain bill for European country loaves. It’s familiar enough that picky eaters won’t turn up their noses, but doesn’t sacrifice depth of flavor. The same basic dough can be used for many variations and other styles of bread, including the rustic vegetable pizza and a pecan-cherry bread which are included on the following pages.
European Peasant Bread: Dough and Variations
From “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”
©2017, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, recipes used by permission
3 cups (680 grams) lukewarm water
1 tablespoon granulated yeast
1 to 1½ tablespoons salt, to taste
½ cup (60 grams) rye flour
½ cup (65 grams) whole wheat flour
5½ cups (780 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
Cornmeal or parchment for pizza peel
Mixing and storing the dough
1. Mix yeast and salt with water in a 5-quart lidded (not airtight) container.
2. Mix in remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, dough whisk, or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle attachment).
3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature for approximately 2 hours.
4. Dough can be used immediately after initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate remainder in a non-airtight lidded container and use over the next 14 days.