Books Chooch Cooking Firsts Health Soulful

Review of "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day…"

I’m finally getting around to writing a review of the book I used to make my first ever pizza dough in my “Firsts” series of posts, most of them during Labor Day weekend.

A weekly meal routines we’ve fallen into over the last eight or so months is “homemade” pizza on Friday nights.  I would purchase a whole wheat pizza shell (Boboli-type) and we would top them ourselves with our favorites. It’s healthier (whole wheat) and much cheaper this way, since the shells run about $5 and the results are individualized.

As is my usual luck when I find something I love, the store next door stopped selling the whole wheat pizza shells about two months ago. I wanted an alternative other than buying at a store I have to drive to, so I started looking at whole wheat pizza dough recipes and although not terribly difficult, I just … didn’t wanna…

Then I came across this book while zipping around in Amazon and was immediately hooked. It’s title “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I read the product description and was curious as to whether or not any whole grain recipes were included. Then I noticed another book by the same authors Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients. The description there really had me excited, so I put the book on reserve at my library and checked it out the next day.

I opened the book to skim it while I was still in the library parking lot, and decided to grab the few items I would need to make my first multi-loaf batch. I’m unable to afford all the recommended tools (pizza peal, baking stone, 5 qt container with lid) for a whimsical attempt, so I instead used their suggested substitutions. Very quickly I had my dough mixed and set aside for the two hours as instructed, and later that night used some of it to make whole wheat pizza dough. It was delicious, although the texture was a bit gummy.

Undeterred, I attempted two or three loaves from the remaining dough and was happy with the taste but not texture. Naughty Bear loved it and ate several slices, but neither Chooch nor I really dug in and I ended up tossing it.  (As Ramona says, “Bread makes you fat,” so I only eat REALLY tasty bread.)

I hit the troubleshooting chapter, which is pretty extensive, and found that different brands of whole wheat flour can cause variation in the results. I followed the recommendations and made another batch, resulting in much better pizza crusts (Friday to Friday). Due to insanity here, I didn’t get another loaf made from that batch, but am entirely sure it was improved based on the difference between the two pizza batches.

As for the process, it’s different from traditional bread making. Annnnd lookit, I’m not going to go into a huge explanation of the science. If you know me, you know my opinion of science (It’s great! But better left in someone else’s hands.). And you are correct if you guess that I read it all, but didn’t bother retaining much of why the system works. But even I can explain the system itself:

You make one huge wad of dough by quickly and simply mixing dry ingredients with wet ingredients in a 5 quart or larger bowl/container/whatevs. Then you park it loosely covered somewhere that your dog/kids/drunk uncle won’t knock it about. After two hours, during which time it has miraculously risen, you move it into the fridge still loosely covered. Now, depending on which dough you mix, it will happily reside in the fridge for up to 5 to 14 days, ready for your use. I have not tested the outer limit on that, but after a little over a week on one batch of the 14 day Master Recipe I question the claim.

Once it’s been refrigerated for … a while (who can remember, that’s what recipe books are for) you use a serrated knife to chop off a chunk and follow the provided steps to make a loaf of artisan dough, pizza crust, baguette, cinnamon rolls, or whatevs. The loaves I’ve made require an additional rising period of 90 minutes or so, but the pizza crust is rolled out and baked immediately.

To date, I’ve made the Master Recipe for pizza crusts and “artisan loaves” and the Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread Recipe with a very tasty loaf. I’m testing it out for pizza crust tonight to see if we like it better than the Master Recipe. This will be my last test batch, and if successful I’ll buy the book, pizza peel and baking stone (I’m already pretty happy with my container situation).

I should warn you that this process will take up a big chunk of your fridge space. You should really think this part through before making any investment. You may be able to get around this if you cut the recipes in half and use smaller containers.

Also, mixing the dough is a bit messy if you don’t use a 14-cup food processor or other machine (which I don’t have), but it’s still extremely quick and easy. I mix and store it in the same bowl, so the only thing I have to wash is measuring cups, a whisk and a wooden spoon. And let’s not forget, it’s bread making we’re talking about here. You’re supposed to get messy!

As for the expense, it’s waaaaay cheaper than a bread machine and I’ve essentially already paid for the book with the savings from 4 pizza crusts (I’m already counting the one I’m making tonight). The other items? We’ll call those an investment for the home.