Monday, February 14, 2011

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: My Experience

Upon my request, my husband bought me Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking for Christmas in 2009.

with the inscription...

and no, we are not 300 lbs...yet.

We love our fresh baked bread. Who doesn't?

Freshly baked and smothered with butter or hummus or strawberry jelly.

Right after Christmas 2009, I made a batch of this bread and it was tasty, but for some reason I put the book back on the shelf and actually forgot about it.
This past November in 2010, I was in the bakery at Wegmans looking for a good loaf of bread for a special dinner for my husband's birthday. The freshly baked breads looked and smelled heavenly, but they were $4.50...for one loaf of bread. I indulged and as we were eating the $4.50 loaf, I remembered the cook book and I have been making the Artisan bread ever since.

The book starts with the Master Recipe and step-by-step, precise instructions. This dough mixes up quickly, especially if you use the dough hook of your mixer. After the dough rises for a couple of hours on the counter, it is ready to use or you can refrigerate it for up to two weeks. One batch of the Master Recipe makes 4 loaves of fresh bread, or pizza, or any of the dozens of recipes that are included in the book. This master recipe is the starter to wonderful variations and recipes. This bread will have a crispy, crackling crust, but a tender, delicious inside. There is no kneading involved at any point. When you are ready to bake a loaf, you pull off a pound of the dough that is in your fridge, shape it into a loaf, let it rise for 20-40 minutes, depending on the age of the dough and bake. The "5 minutes" part is the active effort that it takes to make the bread, the shaping into a loaf.

I have been keeping a batch of the dough in my refrigerator ever since November. It was the reason I bought four 5-lb bags of flour during the holiday sales back in the December.

I take the full 2 weeks to use the dough. I usually make 2 loaves of bread and 2 pizzas with the dough. We enjoy a nice loaf with one meal a week. We have also been having a homemade pizza night every Saturday night.

There is a Master Recipe and then several variations of the master. Right now I make the Olive Oil Version as it works nicely with pizzas and my favorite bread, Olive Bread. I may or may not have a slight addiction to it. I am a lover of all things Kalamata.

The pizzas took me a few times to get used to, but now it is SO easy. I had never made pizza this way and I am hooked on the technique. Before, I just put my homemade pizza (with store bought crust...ahem) on the pizza stone and put it in the oven.

Now, the oven is preheated at 550 degrees F (500 if that is your oven's maximum) with the pizza stone already in the oven for 20 minutes. While the oven is preheating, I roll out the dough and then place on an upside down cookie sheet that is covered liberally with cornmeal. I then add my toppings. I don't have a pizza peel, which is recommended, but the cookie sheet has been working well for me.

After 20 minutes of preheating, with a quick shake I carefully slide the pizza on to the heated stone. The cornmeal makes this easy.

It bakes for 8-10 minutes and Viola: delicious, home baked pizza with a crispy crust. We all love it and I am going to start making different variations of pizzas. Per my kids' requests, our pizzas have all been cheese.

The cost savings for Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day:

The Master Recipe calls for 6 1/2 cups of flour. When I use the sale flour that I bought in December and when I buy the yeast on sale and with a coupon, I'll spend about $1 to make one batch of the Master Recipe. Remember that one batch of the Master Recipe makes 4 loaves of fresh bread, so the final price of a loaf is 25 cents! Also remember that I spent $4.50 on ONE loaf of fresh store-bought bread. The final price of the home-made bread will vary slightly depending on what you pay for your ingredients and it will go up when you add other ingredients like my beloved Kalamata olives, but the savings will always be substantial over the store-bought version.

Some supplies that you'll need for Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day:

1. A good pizza stone. The book suggests you get a high quality, half-inch thick baking stone. Apparently, the cheaper, thinner ones crack easily. Fortunately, I have had a stone from Pampered Chef for about 15 years and it is still going strong. You could use a baking sheet, but you won't get the crisp crust on your bread like you will with a stone. The stone absorbs the excess moisture from the wet dough and that is what creates the crackling, crisp crust.

2. Oven Thermometer. The book states that this item isn't optional, but I don't have one yet.

3. A 5-quart plastic storage container with a lid to store the dough in your refrigerator.

4. Boiler tray to hold the water for steam. I used the one that came with my oven. The stone is placed in the middle rack and a boiler tray is placed on the bottom rack. A cup of water is placed in the tray when the dough is put in the oven. The steaming helps get the crackling, crispy crust in a lot of the breads. This isn't needed for the pizza.

5. A pizza peel to slide the dough on to the hot stone. I don't have a peel and like I stated above, I use an upside down cookie sheet. This has worked fine for me, but I might eventually get a peel.

6. Scale. This isn't necessary, but I weigh my bread when I break off a piece. I found in the beginning that I was breaking off too big a piece and then it wasn't baking all the way through. I didn't realize it until I cut through the loaf....GRRRRR. I use a simple kitchen scale that I have had for years. Eventually, I'm sure I'll be able to eyeball the dough that I am breaking off, but right now I do weigh it.

Some tips from my experience thus far with Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day:

1. Cornmeal is your best friend with this technique. In the beginning, I wasn't using enough and when I would try to slide the bread or pizza off the cookie sheet and on to the hot stone, the dough would stick. I now use a liberal amount of cornmeal and I make sure the dough is near the end of the upside down cookie sheet so it doesn't have far to slide.

2. Don't be discouraged. At first, I had a hard time forming the dough into a ball. My dough balls never looked as formed as the ones in the book. The dough can be quite sticky and I think that was why I initially put the cookbook back on to the bookshelf. I think I was just dough-challenged in the beginning. I found this technique gets easier each time I bake some bread.

I'm excited to branch out and try other recipes, like Vermont Cheddar Bread, Roasted Garlic Potato Bread, Pecan Caramel Rolls, Strombolis, Soft Pretzels or the Focaccia with Onion and Rosemary...should I go on?? Okay...the Oatmeal Pumpkin Bread, Caramelized Onion and Herb Dinner Rolls, Prosciutto and Olive Oil Flat bread, Spinach Feta Bread, Sun-Dried Tomato and Parmesan Bread and so much more. I think you get the picture; the possibilities in this cookbook are endless.

There is a new version, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients that I want to try.

I see a bright future and it doesn't include store-bought bread.

Do you bake your own bread? Have you read and tried the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. Well, this looks DELISH and my stomach is totally growling right now as I'm looking at your pictures! I'm not kidding. {sigh} We've essentially given up bread for the last year since we've been trying to lose weight. We could eat our weight in bread hot from the oven or bread machine, but our waistlines also gave us and our bad habit away. One day I hope to be able to make a loaf now and then, but first we have to finish losing the weight and then learn some self-control! :-) In the meantime, PLEASE enjoy some bread for me!! This sounds so easy and was a GREAT review!

  2. I have this book on my reading list. I think I will have to get it early :) Your breads look delicious. I can't wait to try it!

  3. I have this book on my reading list. Your breads look so good, I think I may have to get the book soon! :)

  4. That bread looks wonderful! I haven't made homemade bread in years! I love the idea of just using my dough hook!
    Thanks for the info about the book!

  5. Thanks for sharing these tips! I love bread and have enjoyed these recipes very much.

  6. This looks wonderful! I was wondering about whole grain, so I was happy you posted the info about the new book. Thanks for such an inspiring and informative post!

  7. @Carrie ~ I'm sorry to torture you with the bread post, but I'll continue to enjoy some bread for you. Thanks for the comments.

    @Melissa ~ You will LOVE this book! Thanks for the comments.

    @Rene, @SnoWhite, @Julie ~ thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  8. Mmmm, the olive bread sounds delicious. I really like the idea of making enough dough for 4 loaves and storing it in the refrigerator. My mom always would make it from scratch each time, so I always thought making bread was too time consuming. I'll have to look up the book and try that master recipe out.

  9. I adore artisan bread and cannot stand the prices. The only thing holding me back was the time. I can't believe you have it down to 5 minutes!! Can you make it with whole wheat and does it still taste as good? I'm printing out this entire article!!!!

  10. @Barbara ~ I haven't tried the whole wheat version, but as I stated in the article they have a new book that uses whole grains. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  11. Just made a loaf. I used panko instead of corn meal to put on paddle to slide off the dough. It worked great. I need to weigh dough, my grapefruit size must of been bigger than the books, the bread needed to be cooked longer to get a darker crust. but it tasted great!!

  12. Love artisan bread, too! I always have a batch in my fridge as well.

  13. Yep... I got a copy from the library... after using it a couple of times, the book went on my gift list! (We have a shared google document between my family, my parents and my sisters family.. makes gift giving easier!) I love making these! I have taken to making them in the a bread pan though.. I just let them rise a bit longer.. and I get great sandwich bread! YUM!

  14. Looks delicious! What do you use to "keep" the bread - or does every last crumb get eaten during the meal?

    1. I just read on the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes blog that leftover loaves should be kept unwrapped at room temp, with the cut side down on a cutting board. They say that hard crusted breads get soggy in bags or containers.

  15. Monique - Generally the loaf gets eaten (between the 4 of us) during the meal. Noone in my family has self-control when it comes to homemade bread. On the occasion that it doesn't get eaten, I store it in a air tight container. My daughter usually requests it for breakfast the next morning with strawberry jam. I microwave it for a few seconds for her. It isn't quite as good as fresh from the oven though.


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