Review of "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day"
"Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day" Review
Breadmaking Made Doable
When we think of ditching the bread aisle to make our own healthy and preservative-free bread, we imagine hours of kneading and attentive nail-biting. Breadmaking, before Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Dr. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François showed us the light, was a one to three day marathon of eyeballing the starter, measuring the flour meticulously, letting the dough rise, punching it down—rinse and repeat. Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day finally makes the process accessible; this book makes breadmakers out of full-time moms and 22-year-old bachelors.
The cost of putting the book into practice might seem a little high to some, but it doesn't have to be. I'll talk about the optional tools that speed up the process, and how you can get around using them if money is tight. Just remember: making bread at home costs much less than buying bread from the grocery store, no matter how you cut it!
Pros and Cons
After using this book for several months and attempting every recipe in it, I can say that I have a great deal of practical positives to review and very few negatives. There are negatives, however, so the purpose of this review is to help buyers make an informed decision about purchasing Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
Pro: The breads taste good.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but as anyone who has switched to whole grains will affirm, the flavor is what makes all the difference. The enriched breads have a lightly-sweet flavor from the honey, richness of the egg, and a substantial feel due to the whole grain component. All told, I prefer the Whole Wheat Brioche (275-276) over the white flour brioche I've had elsewhere. See that sticky bun pic on the right? Yeah, can you believe that's made with whole wheat? I didn't think so. Similarly, the non-enriched breads make a great showing. The Master Bread Recipe (53-59) is the flagship dough, but the 100% Whole Wheat Bread (79-80) with the added honey is interchangeable in most cases. Most of the non-enriched doughs double as flatbreads and pizza dough. Don't worry, the book includes recipes for putting the doughs to a variety of interesting (and tasty!) uses.
Pro: "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day" has a sizable Gluten-Free section.
For those with gluten allergies, the options seem slim for bread. Store-bought breads don't satisfy most palettes and lack the comfortable substance of gluten breads. I have tried the gluten-free bread recipes and each has been superior to any gluten-free bread I have ever tried elsewhere. It's clear that Dr. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François put a great deal of thought and experimentation into getting the ingredients and amounts just right. The Gluten-Free Cheddar and Sesame Crackers (246) and Gluten-Free Brioche (252-253) are show-stoppers. Those with gluten allergies take heart: this book is as much for you as for anyone else!
Con: The instructions are a tad vague.
Now let my review here be clear: Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day goes into extraordinary detail about everything from the protein content of different types of grain flours to diagnosing common problems with dough. The problem with this book is in the dough resting suggestions, which despite the standard 45 or 90 minutes, do not tell the breadmaker how to know when the dough is ready. This presents a problem because climate greatly affects the readiness of the dough. Rarely has the stated 45 or 90 minutes proved sufficient time for me.
Con: The book layout is boring.
The handful of glossy, color pictures in the middle of the book is nice, but everything else is black and white. These breads lend themselves to color photos and cooks might have benefited from seeing the potential product. I would have. While I suspect they elected to limit color to reduce the cover-price, I cannot help but feel that this choice cost readers in other areas. Cookbooks should be an experience, not just informative and helpful. Again, while Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day does have a few pictures and the subject-matter makes it interesting, the overall effect is just...boring.
Conclusion: "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes" is Worth It for Most
The reason I have so much experience with this book is because, ultimately, it's worth buying and worth using. After several months, breadmaking has not grown too tedious for me and the financial benefits have been substantial. While the book isn't for the coffee table, and the resting times need adjustment based on climate, the pros far outweigh the cons.
- Dough Buckets
The benefit of using the dough bucket is that it allows you to gauge accurately the amount of rising the dough has done. To get around buying one, use the plastic storage pieces or bowls you have on hand. Just be sure to crack the lid while the dough rises and for the first few days of refrigeration.
I won't sit here and pretend that you'll get the same results with this budget-friendly fix, but it will be comparable. You can use a preheated cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal or flour. Parchment paper will also serve well here.
- Pizza Peel - Bread Peel
Probably the most easily replaced tool, the pizza or bread peel is a light wooden paddle that is a handy surface for letting the dough rise, helps slip the bread in and out of the oven, and generally looks great hung on the wall. Replace it with an adequately-sized, smooth cutting board or cookie sheet.
- Pastry Brush
This helps wet the surface of the dough with a water, egg, milk, or cornsyrup wash. You can replace this with a cheap food-safe spray bottle found in the travel aisles of drugstores and grocery stores or a wad of paper towels.