My whole family loves bread. Since I also enjoy baking, most of our bread is homemade. Our daily bread is a whole-wheat sourdough. On special occasions, the family really enjoys artisan breads: baguettes, boules, Tuscan breads, and others like them. Until recently, having artisan crusty bread meant a real production. Most of the time, I had to start the bread one, two or more days in advance of when we wanted to eat it. It was always delicious, but it didn't lend itself to my usual on-a-whim baked good cravings.
A few weeks ago, I discovered a book, "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day," by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I was a little skeptical about whether the book could deliver on the promise implicit in the title and the contents of the book. Hertzberg and Francois promised artisan breads on demand in exchange for just five minutes of hands-on time by employing a new method "using a pre-mixed, pre-risen, high moisture dough" that was stored in the refrigerator. After several weeks of testing, one thing is very clear; they delivered on the promise.
Every bread recipe I have tried from the book has been fantastic. But equally valuable to the recipes in the book is the technique itself. Using the Master Recipe from the book, which the authors are kindly allowing me to share with you, I have made two variations, "Bread: Fully Loaded!" and "Speed of Light English Muffins." Both of these became instant family favorites.
Printed with permission from Zoe Francois. The recipe, as it appears here, has been condensed by cutting out the author's commentary. To read all of their instructions and comments, see "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." This version will make the variations I've given below.