Making good, quick bread at home

I received an email from a reader after posting about our quick bread-based meal, asking for the recipe. Our policy is to not reproduce recipes online that we get from cookbooks, feeling that the authors of good cookbooks have every right to expect that their intellectual property be respected by random bloggers not giving away their work for free. But I am more than happy to write about the process, and plug the book that taught us a great method.

The book is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, written by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Normally titles like that make us run screaming, as there are lots of cheap cooking gimmicks out there that subvert the reality of cooking. This is not one of them. What the authors (a scientist and a professional chef/baker) have done is figure out a great dough recipe that can be stored and used as they describe below:

A one or two week supply of dough is made in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Measuring and mixing the dough takes less than 15 minutes. Kneading, as we’ve said, is not necessary. Every day, cut off a hunk of dough from the storage container and briefly shape it without kneading. Allow it to rest briefly on the counter and then toss it in the oven. We don’t count the rest time (20 minutes or more depending on the recipe) or baking time (usually about 30 minutes) in our five-minute-a-day calculation since you can be doing something else while that’s happening.

This method turns out nice, crusty bread with a good interior that we are very, very pleased with. It’s far better than bread machine results, which invariably seem to turn out squishy bread with no crust. It’s still not quite as good as truly traditionally made bread, but leaps ahead of other shortcuts. We really are finding that we can quickly throw together a loaf during breakfast or before any meal and have it ready when we need it; it’s become my standard lunch on Mondays when I head off for a day’s work at Goatsbeard Farm and need something quick to take along.

The method works equally well for loaves, flatbreads, naans, and more, but you need the right recipe. The book is definitely a worthwhile investment; everyone we’ve served the bread to has raved about it. It’s certainly allowed us to eat more, and better, bread than ever before, and I think the authors deserve the income for coming up with this method and recipe.
One note: we’ve adaped their recipe slightly to include up to 1/3 content of our locally milled Missouri wheat flour, which really adds flavor. We round out the flour content with King Arthur bread flour, which has a high gluten content to balance the low-gluten Missouri flour. This combination works very nicely.

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