I was inspired to try the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method by a couple of people, including C.Beth and House on Hill Road. (Some of these ladies have been doing the Artisan book for a while and have moved on to the newest book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, in case you want to check out what all they've been doing.)
Here's my first loaf!
And for my report:
The book calls for some semi-specialty equipment. Nothing too exotic, but I had to make do with what I had, which involved very minor variations (which were helpfully given in the book). First, they specify not to use bleached flour because the dough will be too wet; I'll buy some unbleached but for now I only had bleached. I wanted to start right away so I just went about 1/8c heavier on the flour (based on the advice in the book for too-wet dough). Second, I didn't have a pizza peel (that long handled, pizza-sized wooden spatula that they use for pizza ovens. Is this something people usually have on hand at home?? ) so I used a cutting board and extra cornmeal. Worked fine. I'm not really seeing myself purchasing a pizza peel. Last, I didn't have a baking stone, but I did have a stone dish which was large enough that I could bake a free-form loaf in the center of it. The sides got in the way when I transferred the loaf but not much. If I find I continue this regularly I might buy a baking stone - I've been wanting one anyway. I did have a large storage container with a lid (I used my popcorn bowl) and a good serrated knife already. I think if you don't have all the equipment they recommend it's still worth trying.
I was really curious about that "five minutes". Seems like it could be rather underestimated, but no - I really did have active involvement for five minutes, or even less. This was the most basic recipe so I'm sure some of the variations take longer, but this was super-fast. This book gets full points for keeping its promises on that front!
I also wondered about cleanup. If cooking takes five minutes but cleanup takes twenty, I'm probably not going to do it every day. Well, cleanup was a cinch. They say you can mix the dough in a mixer or food processor but I say it would not be worth the trouble. It took only a couple of minutes to mix it with a wooden spoon in the bowl I was using for storage so my cleanup on mixing day was a grand total of ONE wooden spoon (what? please tell me you don't wash a measuring spoon after you use it for salt). On baking day, I've got the serrated knife to wash and a dusty cutting board (which I'll be dusting off and using to chop veggies for dinner). That's it. The baking stone is something that you season rather than wash with soap and anyway, it just has a little flour and cornmeal on it. That's a really easy cleanup.
And now to the real heart of the matter: YUM. YUM. YUM. It came out just like it was supposed to! Isn't that exciting? The crust is crispy, the inside is soft with just the "custard crumb" character they describe in the book. It's a very simple flavor (there isn't even any oil in the dough) but still really good. The raw dough tasted overly salty but the finished bread is just like a table bread at a nice restaurant. James said, "Wow, that looks like it came from the store!" Zack, Sammy and I (James is sick, poor guy!) ate the entire loaf at dinner.
As far as barriers to doing this regularly, I can only see one: the need to think ahead. You only have to be involved for five minutes, but you need to pull the dough out to rest at least two hours before you want to cut it. Sometimes I just don't get started that early. I'll keep you posted as I continue!
(Below, top to bottom: resting dough, after slashing and right before baking, after baking)