Zoe Francios and Jeff Hertzberg have a secret. Their secret allows them (and really anyone) to have freshly baked bread with almost no daily effort. The basic secret is this, in a nutshell. A few key ingredients, mixed together in the right proportions, set to rise, and then refrigerated, can be made into bread with less than 5 minutes a day of active effort.
Two years ago, they released a best-selling book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of their first book and I’ve been using it ever since. Now I’ll be honest, 5 minutes a day is the active time. It takes more than 5 total minutes to get a loaf of bread. There’s the 5 minutes that you spend mixing the dough on day 1. Then there’s the waiting (more on that in a minute). On baking day, there’s the 5 minutes of shaping, and then the time it takes to rise. And then there’s the time it takes to bake. But when you compare that to the active working time of your average bread recipe, that’s very little effort. So since we don’t tend to have a lot of time to bake and these recipes are so easy, we’ve been using their secret for over a year.
Just a few weeks ago, they released their second book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. We received a review copy and were able to spend part of Monday night with Zoe Francios at her book signing event at the University of Washington Bookstore.
For this second book, Jeff and Zoe focused on healthier breads using whole grains, alternative grains (such as Emmer) and breads using fruits and vegetables. They have a significant gluten-free section as well. But even though they’ve provided a whole book of new recipes, their basic method remains the same. Mix a few ingredients (including yeast) in a container, let rise on the counter for 2 hours, then refrigerate for up to two weeks.
The true secret is in the time the dough spends in the fridge. While the dough can be used 2 hours after the initial rise, it goes through a fermentation and maturation process in the fridge and the flavor will rival that of other yeast breads. The flavor develops slowly in the fridge so that the bread you bake on day two and the bread that you bake on day 9 will have slightly different flavors.
One of my favorite things about Zoe and Jeff (well, besides their breads) are how responsive they are to readers. They maintain a very active website and both have Twitter accounts. You can find Jeff at ArtisanBreadin5 and Zoe at ZoeBakes. Zoe also maintains a fabulous pastry blog with some of the most beautiful photos I’ve seen. if you have any question about their recipes or techniques, they will be happy to help you on their website or on Twitter. They are truly two of the most helpful cookbook authors I’ve ever met and they want to hear your feedback.
We’ll be talking about many of their breads over the next few months when the weather is cool and perfect for a slice of hot, freshly baked bread. Our very next post will be their Rosemary Flax Baguettes.
Zoe and Jeff are currently planning their next book on pizzas and flatbreads.
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