What if we told you you could make fresh, artisan bread at home, with minimal active time and a fraction of the cost of store-bought bread?
Typical bread recipes require many hours on baking day, as well as things like keeping sourdough starters alive, so we’d fallen out of the habit. However, there’s a type of bread making called no-knead bread, where you can mix up a batch, throw it in the refrigerator for a few hours (or overnight, for up to 2 weeks), and then shape and bake it the day you want to eat it. Truly simple, compared to other bread recipes.
We’ve been looking for an easy multi-grain bread recipe, so we connected with the queen of no-knead artisan bread herself, Zoë François, co-author of the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day books. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? We used to bake from the book years ago; fast forward a few years and turns out Zoë is actually a friend of our dear friend Sarah! Here we adapted a recipe from Zoë’s new cookbook, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by increasing the rye and wheat flours, and adding some texture with oats, sunflower seeds and quinoa. We love it, and it’s our new go-to bread recipe! We can’t tell you how happy we are to be able to make our own bread: it tastes amazing and is nowhere near the cost of our favorite store bought bread.
Even better, we caught up with Zoë here to ask her more about no-knead artisan bread in the interview below. We are honored to share her insight and story!
*PS, if you’re gluten-free, the above book also has a chapter on gluten-free breads, and there’s a new Gluten-Free book coming out in October (see below).
So, you’re a successful baker and author in Minneapolis (my home city!). How did you get started baking?
Zoë: I started “baking” when I was about 7 years old. My friend and I would mix random ingredients together, throw it into the oven and wait to see what would happen. The results were technically edible, but the real reason we did it was to watch things blow up. My mom wasn’t much of a baker (which is an understatement), so if I wanted sweets, I had to make them myself. And, as a teen, I always wanted sweets!
I spent a lot of time developing my own cookie recipes. In college, I took those recipes and started a cookie company. That makes it sound a lot bigger than it was, which was actually a cart that I’d push into downtown Burlington, VT and sell to the local business people at lunch. I had enough regulars that I took a semester off from school and baked full time.
After finishing college and going into a less than satisfying career in marketing, I got the pull to bake again. I ended up at the CIA in NY and then working for Andrew Zimmern in Minneapolis before he went global eating bugs and critters.
How did Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day come about?
Zoë: I quit my job as a pastry chef when I had my first son, since the restaurant business is crazy and not entirely conducive to family life. I was at a music class with my then 2-year-old son and met Jeff Hertzberg, a doctor and enthusiastic home baker. He shared a “recipe” with me that he’d been working on and asked me to try it out. I resisted for as long as I could, because it just didn’t seem like it would work and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. The concept of storing dough in the refrigerator flew in the face of everything I’d learned in culinary school and when something seems too good to be true, it generally is.
Well, Jeff is a very persistent man and I eventually tried it. I came back to the music class the next week and told him he absolutely had to get the recipe in front of everyone. I was hysterical about the whole thing, the bread was amazing, it was easy and it was fast enough to make sense in every busy person’s life. He had called the radio show The Splendid Table to ask Lynne Rosetto Kasper how to get a cookbook published. An editor happened to be listening to the show, she contacted Lynne to find out how to get in touch with Jeff and that is how our first book came to be. Jeff asked me to be a part of it because that first recipe was in rough shape (another understatement) and he wasn’t particularly fond of cookbooks. I did it for the experience and next thing I know, we’re finishing up our 5th book together.
What are the major benefits of baking bread at home, specifically using your no knead-method?
Zoë: Our method produces artisan quality bread for a fraction of the cost of what you can buy it for at the store. It costs about 50 cents to bake a 1-pound loaf of our Master recipe. You can’t even buy a slice for that little in a bakery anymore.
The main reason people stopped baking bread was that the process intimidated them, or they assumed it took too long. We created our method with them in mind. We knew it needed to be so easy that even the most tentative cook would want to try it and it had to be fast. We’re all so busy that spending the day on a loaf of bread just isn’t realistic for most folks. 5 minutes we can do.
Obviously, that is the active time. Another great reason to bake your own bread is to have total control over the ingredients you are using. Our Master recipe is just flour, water, yeast and salt. That is all you need to bake a gorgeous loaf of bread.
Are there health benefits to home-baked bread? What are some of your healthiest bread recipes?
Zoë: Most bread you find in the grocery store (especially those in plastic bags) has all kinds of preservatives, food color and lots of unnecessary sugars. Many of the whole wheat breads are mostly white flour, but they add molasses and food colors to make it look like whole grain bread. Many of our readers want more control over what they are eating, and baking their bread is a great place to start. Our second book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, was written because our readers were asking us for more whole grain breads.
How do you respond to the popularity of eating gluten-free? Is bread still an important part of our diet, as long as it’s in moderation? Do you have gluten-free recipes for those with allergies?
Zoë: I had never heard about Celiac disease before we wrote our first book. When it came out in 2007, our website was flooded with requests for gluten-free versions of our fast and easy recipes. We started developing some to satisfy the requests. It became obvious that it wasn’t just a few folks; it was many. We added a chapter of gluten-free breads in HBin5 and got a tremendous response. The numbers of folks who are being diagnosed with Celiac disease is growing, as are the number of people who are intolerant and sensitive to wheat. Jeff and I decided that a small chapter in our wheat filled books wasn’t really fair to these folks, so we have just written a book that is entirely gluten-free. Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day will be out in October.
Bread is a staple in our diet, as it is all over the world. Both Jeff and I bake it daily. Neither of us has gained any weight during this 10 year, bread-baking adventure, because we eat it in moderation. Jeff, the doctor, always says “everything in moderation, even moderation!”
Anything else to share?
Zoë: We understand that bread baking seems intimidating so we have a website where we have videos and lots of pictures to show just how easy it is. We also invite all of our readers to come ask questions and Jeff or I am there to help 24/7!
Thank you so much to Zoë for your inspiration, insight, and gorgeous books!
This recipe doesn’t take much hands-on time, but it requires thinking ahead. The day you mix the dough, you’ll need 1 hour for soaking add-ins and 2 hours for a rise. The day you bake the bread, you need a 40 minute rest and a 35 minute baking time (plus the ever-painful cool down period!). The recipe also uses several special components, including a pizza stone, old sheet pan, and a pizza peel. Make sure to read through the entire recipe before trying!
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup quinoa
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon active yeast
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup rye flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- Soaking the add-ins (1 hour) In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup oats, 1/4 cup quinoa, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, and 1/4 cup water. Let sit for 1 hour.
- Mixing the dough and letting it rise (2 hours) In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl) combine 3 cups lukewarm water with 1 tablespoon active yeast.
- With a standard mixer paddle (or a large spoon), mix in 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, 4 cups all purpose flour, 1 cup rye flour, 1 cup wheat flour, and the soaked oats and seeds. Mix only enough to combine; do not knead or overwork the dough. If necessary, use your hands to make sure all ingredients are incorporated.
- Cover with a towel and allow to the dough to rise and collapse at room temperature. This should take about 2 hours.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. It can be used anytime in the next 2 weeks, but we usually bake two loaves the day after mixing and freeze one loaf.
- Bake the bread (1 1/2 hours) When ready to bake, on a floured surface divide the dough into two balls. Adding a bit of flour as necessary to work with the dough, shape each ball into a loaf by stretching the edges of the dough down and under the loaf.
- Sprinkle a pizza peel or baking sheet with cornmeal and place the loaves on the cornmeal. Allow the loaves to rest for 40 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450F with a pizza stone on the center rack. In addition, place an old sheet pan on the bottom rack to use for steaming (which creates a nice brown crust on the bread). We use a load our sheet pan with lava rock to assist in the steaming and hold the heat of the oven.
- After the rest, sprinkle each loaf with flour and use a serrated knife to cut several 1/2″ deep slashes along the top of the loaves.
- Slide the loaves onto the pizza stone as far apart as possible (so they don’t touch as they rise). Wearing an oven mitt, pour 1 cup of hot water onto the sheet pan and quickly close the oven door to fill the oven with steam.
- Bake for 35 minutes until brown and crispy. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. After cooling, the loaves can be frozen in an airtight bag.
Adapted from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Herzberg and Zoë François