I have a confession: I have murdered so many sourdough starters that I’ve lost count. This is especially sad because I love everything about baking bread — the scent of yeast, the smooth elasticity of kneaded dough, a slice of warm, buttered bread fresh from the oven… honestly, that’s my idea of romance. There is something so satisfyingly wholesome about turning flour, water, salt, and yeast into nourishment to eat and share.
In the past, my well-intentioned resolve to bake bread from scratch has lasted for whole days at a time before real life intervened. I tried again and again, leaving piles of breadcrumbs and jars of century-old starter in my wake. I burned out an electric stand mixer on a batch of leaden whole wheat. I dabbled in bread machines, but I could never quite accept the notion of “homemade” bread that I hadn’t actually touched until each oddly-shaped loaf emerged from its little metal case. Then in 2008, I fractured two vertebrae and a rib while kneading bread dough (my first hint that I had osteoporosis). I don’t give up easily, but even I was a wee bit discouraged after that.
So when a dear foodie friend of mine recommended a book entitled Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I was skeptical. I’ve made recipes that required more time than that just to proof the yeast, and don’t even get me started on kneading, resting, and rising. But I borrowed his copy, and as I read it, I started to believe it was actually possible. Then I set a timer and made the first batch of dough: four loaves’ worth was rising on the counter before my five minutes were up. When the first loaf came out of the oven looking like something from a bakery in Provence, I was impressed; then my family polished it off in about the same amount of time it took to make it. Only contented sighs and a few smears of butter on the counter proved it ever existed, and I was happily converted to the ranks of Bakers of Bread.
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day was written by a chemist and a pastry chef, and through an extensive research process, they whittled down making bread to its essential steps. There is no proofing, no kneading, and no second rising phase. A recipe makes enough for four 1-lb. loaves, so you can enjoy fresh bread every day, and it’s easy enough to make that both my kids (ages 11 and 14) can do it. The basic recipe for white bread is so tasty, it took me a long while to venture into other combinations, but everything I’ve tried in the cookbook is delicious. My most recent batch was Roasted Garlic Potato Bread, which I used to make open-face meatloaf sandwiches (a play on the traditional side of mashed potatoes) and Turkey BLT’s (pictured above). If you’re a would-be baker or have one in the family, this book is worth every penny. I’d love to hear how it goes if you try it out. :)