You may recall a column from a few weeks ago on baking bread, specifically, the book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." It's true. I do. And given the number of messages, comments and questions I received in response to that column, I'm excited to know that so many of my readers want to, too!
Rather than address each of your questions individually, I've taken the liberty of compiling and editing them down as follows.
Q: Can I get started with just the Master Recipe, or do I really need the book?
The creators, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, have kindly made the Master Recipe and step-by-step instructions with photos available on their website. So the answer is no, you do not need the book to get started. But you're going to want it eventually. It would make a great Christmas gift!
Q: Is the Master Recipe gluten-free?
No, it is not. However, Hertzberg and Francois have written a subsequent book, "Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day," with 90 delicious and easy recipes made with gluten-free flours. It's a gorgeous book inside and out.
Q: Can I freeze the dough?
Yes, you can. Just wrap it very well or seal it in airtight containers anytime after the initial rise. When you're ready to use it, defrost overnight in the fridge, and then shape, rest and bake as usual. It's a great idea, especially with the holidays coming into clear view ahead.
Q: What tools and equipment do I need to get started?
You might be able to get started with what you have already. However, I know now from experience that you'll give yourself the best chance for immediate success (which means you won't give up after one try) when you have the right equipment.
Here's are the basic essential tools (links available to my personal favorites at www.everydaycheapskate.com/artisanbread):
Dough-Rising Bucket With Lid. A must-have to make artisan bread in this unique method is a dough-rising bucket. Any large container that will fit in your refrigerator and has a lid will do. Ideally, you want one that is square to make better use of space in a refrigerator, which for me is very limited. The bucket and lid are separate items. Don't forget the lid.
Oven Thermometer. One of the secrets of making fabulous artisan bread is oven temperature. It must be precise. But don't worry — even if your oven is not well-calibrated, the only thing necessary to fix that is a good oven thermometer. The book explains and instructs on this. You want a reliable and easy-to-use thermometer.
Pizza Peel. It looks like a big, flat wooden paddle, and yes, it is most often used in making homemade pizza. It is an essential item for making artisan bread. While pizza peels come in metal and wood, I much prefer a wood peel for the artisan bread process. I find that my dough sticks to metal.
I might as well be the president of the Five-Minute Bread Fan Club because of how this book (and all of Jeff and Zoe's books) has changed my life.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.