I’m kicking myself because I know I took pictures for this review before returning the book to the library but I can’t find them on my camera or on my phone. So here are my recipe testing pictures which will have to do. Despite the pictures, this is still a review post. I’ll publish the recipe in a different post.
I decided to read and review this book based on a recommendation by a friend. She said she really liked this book and had learned to bake from it. Since I’m always looking for books for beginners, I checked it out.
From the first page, the book really had a lot going for it. The writing style was very friendly, and it immediately eschewed many of the points of worry for beginning bakers: measuring, fermentation, kneading, etc. The recipe claims to not need any of those techniques.
The book revolves around a single ‘mother’ recipe, and the rest of the book is variations on that first basic recipe.
As with most baking books, the introduction describes the purposes of flour, water, yeast and salt and why their techniques work. By keeping the dough in the refrigerator, you can mix it up one day and bake it in a few days’ time.
By using a wet dough, it allows the yeast to move around more freely, also the gluten isn’t fully formed so the yeast doesn’t rise the dough quickly.
You should be aware that the title of this book is a misnomer. On the first day, you have to mix the ingredients, then let the dough sit on the counter for two hours. Then on the baking day, you have to give it a good second rise to take the chill from the refrigerator off. So you’re dedicating two hours on mixing day and two hours on baking day. Maybe it’s five minutes a day average, over the course of two weeks? I can’t be the only person to notice this.
My one critique of this recipe is that, while keeping dough in the refrigerator does keep it for several days, I just don’t have the space in my fridge to keep a multi-loaf ball of dough for 14 days. My bowl took up a whole shelf.
Ok, I did have one other complaint. I hate this baking set-up. I get much better results from baking with a dutch oven. Some authors think the average bake doesn’t have a dutch oven, but they assume that same average baker has a pizza stone and cast iron skillet? I don’t know. Maybe they do. But I always hate pouring water into the pan because I got a bad steam burn a year ago. One of the books I read suggested pulling the skillet out slightly to pour the water, then let the oven door push it back in as you close it.
One of my other issues, which I know is a nod to the non-baker people, is not weighing ingredients. That includes not measuring the individual dough loaves when you cinch it from the rest of the dough. I don’t know what a 1-lb loaf feels like, and I think all of my loaves were smaller than 1 lb.
I will say, I was satisfied with the way the dough came out. Not bad for a recipe for beginners, that required zero kneading.
The holes were decent. They would’ve been better if I’d given it a longer second rise. This loaf had an hour rise, not the twenty-minute rise they suggest in the book.
I wish I had had more time to peruse the recipes in this book before returning it to the library. But I had a backing backlog and I’m just catching up. So my verdict on Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day: I recommend it!