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Great Cookbooks for Families: Bread

Reviewed by Katy Killilea

pull-apart-butter-top-rolls-page-63Bread bakers went berserk in 2006 over a no-knead bread making method. If you haven’t yet tried it, know that with this recipe, a sack of flour, and some yeast and salt, you and yours will enter a heavenly bread zone and might never leave your home except to look for butter. This bread’s got a crackly crust; moist, holey, tangy insides, and it is utterly addictive. Even so, you might eventually get curious about some other breads.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day came along in 2007 with a method very similar to the one above, but with a few twists. The instructions here have you store a few loaves’ worth of dough in your fridge–for up to two weeks–and hack off a hunk whenever you want fresh bread. (It works.) The simple dough mutates into various lovely crusty breads, babka, sticky buns, and more.

ksimple1The newest bread recipes to capture my heart and oven are from Kneadlessly Simple. In it, the no-knead method is taken to new levels of ease, utility, and flexibility. Each recipe includes instructions for speeding up or slowing down the dough’s timeline to fit your family’s schedule–ideal if you’re living life by the seat of your pants (i.e. don’t know how long you’ll be at the playground or when your next opportunity to poke at dough might present itself). Our family’s new favorite bread for morning toast (with jam or eggs) or lunch (with avocado squashed on to it) is Kneadlessly Simple’s English Muffin Loaves, made with King Arthur’s white whole wheat flour. If you’d like to try this recipe, let me know–I’ll send it to you–I’m an English Muffin Loaf evangelist.

None of these breads is quick in the usual sense–for good results, you’ll have to wait at least a full day between mixing the ingredients and eating bread, but the effortful part is brief. And these no-knead doughs are loose and soft enough for a child’s tender muscles to mix on his or her own–no mighty adult or electrical machinery required.

breadcomesto-life6If your family is curious about how flour, water, yeast, and salt turn into bread, turn to the children’s book Bread Comes to Life. With photos, rhythm, and energy, the story of bread (beginning in green fields of wheat and ending with baguettes and naan) is laid bare. If your family needs to know even more about the science behind bread baking, the Q&A portions of the seriously detailed Local Breads or Chapter One (“Ten Essential Steps of Making Bread”) of The Bread Bible eradicate the mystery and illuminate the magic. Unlike hot dogs, no matter how much you know, bread never ceases to be delicious. (And for drooling, check out the Little Blue Cheese Rye Loaves in Local Breads or the Chocolate Sticky Buns in The Bread Bible.)

The details:
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
By Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
$27.95 St. Martin’s Press

Kneadlessly Simple
By Nancy Baggett
$24.95 Wiley

Bread Comes to Life
By George Levenson
$15.95 Tricycle Press

Local Breads
By Daniel Leader with Lauren Chattman
$35.00 W.W. Norton

The Bread Bible
$35.00 W.W. Norton

Photo Credit: Pull apart rolls from Kneadlessly Simple.

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  • The recipe is very flexible.
    Parchment, yes. I use the same sheet repeatedly. It doesn’t wear out. (Eventually it rips or becomes brittle.)
    Skip the water/steam maker. In my oven it makes no difference.
    Bake in a closed dutch oven as per Sullivan Street Bakery.
    I can not imagine the person who will not enjoy this bread.

  • The basics from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes is on the Mother Earth News website. I’ve been making it for several weeks, and it really couldn’t be easier. And good! And cheap!

    A couple comments – you can cook the bread on parchment, which makes life much easier when transferring to the pizza stone, and a cast iron griddle works too if you don’t have a pizza stone. The first time I made it, I put the hot water (called for in the recipe) in a pan under the pizza stone and the stone cracked, so now I put the water *above* the stone in the oven.

  • Barbara, It is very easy to find these recipes online. if you click on the link to no-knead bread in the first paragraph, you’ll get to the recipe as printed in the NYTimes. If you google “Artisan Bread in 5” you’ll be able to get that recipe. Definitely do it! The breads are wonderful to eat & fun to make.

  • how do i get the simple recipe that you refer to above?–short of buying the cookbook that is maybe that isn’t possible it does sound delicious

  • Kneadlessly Simple is still right on the kitchen counter, in continuous use, even though I wrote this review a while ago. I really love it.

  • Thank you for this great review Katy!
    I am very much ready to make bread….This was the boost I kneaded …. 🙂
    ….or didn’t knead, as the recipe says.