Breaking bread

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January 3, 2014 // UPDATED 11:06 am - January 23, 2014
By: Sarah McKenzie
Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.
Sarah McKenzie
A Q&A with bestselling cookbook authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë Francois

Southwest Minneapolis baking superstars Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois are out with a new cookbook featuring more than 30 new recipes and a chapter devoted to gluten-free recipes.

Much like their previous bestselling books, “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” is designed to make it easy for people to make their own delicious bread in mere minutes. New recipes include gluten-free cheesy breadsticks, beer-cheese and crock-pot bread, pretzel buns and apple-stuffed French toast. Here are highlights of a recent interview with Hertzberg and Francois. 

SWJ: What motivated this new book?

Hertzberg: Our readers, just like always. They reach out to us on BreadIn5.com, and they asked for more color pictures, more black and white instructional photos, and more recipes. We’re only too happy to accommodate. This was also a chance to enhance many of our tips and techniques, and to refine the way we have people adjusting salt and yeast to their taste. There are also some gluten-free recipes in a new chapter that the first edition of the book never had.

What are some of the key lessons you two have learned since you started collaborating on the bread recipes?

Hertzberg: Be flexible, because the way you thought of something before you floated the new idea may not be exactly right. Collaborating with someone else on a creative project is occasionally a challenge, but mostly it’s a joy. I can’t imagine trying to write a cookbook alone, though I suppose that’s the more common approach. It just strikes me as boring, all that solitary work, testing and writing without anyone to bounce ideas off of and rein you in when your off the mark. Plus, if there weren’t two of us, we’d have never felt like we had the time to answer reader questions ourselves on BreadIn5.com. And that, I think, has been the reason that we now have published four books.

What are some of your favorite new recipes?

Hertzberg: I’m partial to the Wurzelbrot, which is a Swiss-German-style baguette that’s very, very rustic. It’s twisted so that it looks like tree roots (wurzel). It showcases my favorite secret, which is that even when you’re making a white bread, throw a little rye in there. It retains moisture and adds flavor and moisture. And you have to try the Crock Pot Bread. Yes, it works. And we re-worked a variation of our Light Whole Wheat recipe so you can dial up the whole grains to about 50 percent (see recipe).

What’s the secret to making a tasty, satisfying gluten-free bread?

Francois: Since neither of us are gluten intolerant we’d only choose to eat a gluten-free loaf if it’s really great. We’ve taste tested most of the packaged breads the g-f community has to choose from and we were disappointed. We knew we could offer a fantastic alternative. One of the best things about our g-f breads is that they are super easy and fast, so you can have fresh, tasty bread every day. 

What’s the benefit of baking your own bread?

Francois: There is nothing more satisfying than making homemade bread. It smells great, it tastes wonderful, it’s about 50 cents a loaf and you have total control over the ingredients you’re eating. With our method it is easy enough for kids to bake it, so you can make it a family activity.

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No-Knead Artisan Dough with Whole Grains, adapted from T”he New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” (more recipes and tips at BreadIn5.com)

Prep time and yield:  Each loaf will average 5 minutes of active preparation time because you’ll store enough dough in the refrigerator to make 4 loaves over the next 10 days, slightly less than 1 pound each, or 8 pizzas or flatbreads, about ½-pound each. A Scoop-and-Sweep measurement video is at http://bit.ly/ruTXhZ

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water, about 100ºF (25 oz./710g)

1 tablespoon granulated yeast

1½ tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt (can decrease to 1 tablespoon to taste)

3½ cups all-purpose unbleached Flour, measured by the “scoop-and-sweep” method (17 oz./490g)

3 cups whole wheat flour, measured by the “scoop-and-sweep” method (13½ oz./385g)

Flour, cornmeal, or parchment paper

In a 5-quart container, mix yeast, water and salt. Add the flour, then use a spoon, stand mixer, or high-capacity food processor to mix until uniform.

Cover (not airtight) and allow to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours.

The dough can be shaped and baked the day it’s mixed, or refrigerated in a lidded container (not airtight) for up to 14 days. The dough is easier to work with after 3 hours refrigeration.

On baking day, prepare a pizza peel with cornmeal or parchment paper. Sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour. Cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough. Cover the remaining dough and refrigerate for baking loaves within 14 days.

Sprinkling with more flour to prevent sticking, shape a smooth ball with your hands by gently stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating as you go. Shaping should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds.

Place dough on prepared pizza peel and allow to rest 60 minutes. Loaf may not rise much during this time.

30 minutes before baking, preheat a pizza stone near the center of the oven to 450 degrees F, with a metal broiler pan on a low rack. 

When the dough has rested for 40 to 90 minutes, dust the top liberally with flour, then use a serrated knife to slash a ½-inch-deep cross.

Slide the loaf off the peel and onto the baking stone. Protect oven window with a towel, pour 1 cup hot water into broiler tray, and close oven door.

Bake about 30 minutes, or until the crust is richly browned and firm to the touch. Allow to cool completely before eating.

— Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë Francois, adapted from “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press).  More information at BreadIn5.com.