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Everyday Cheapskate: Got 5 Minutes? Make Beautiful, Fresh, Homemade Bread

Mary Hunt on

As the stories continue to unfold about how people survived Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and as people continue to deal with the ravages of hurricane season, I can't be the only one questioning my own disaster preparedness.

One thing is certain: Here at the Hunt house, we'd have bread.

For years, I'd had somewhat of a love-hate relationship with baking bread. It's a domestic skill I could never quite master. And that bothered me in the way that little things can.

This would be my pattern: Four out of five tries would be a flop. Then, in an act of mercy by the yeast gods, I'd turn out a specimen fit for judging at the Iowa State Fair. But the time involved, the angst and the stress ... not much in my life is worth all of that, and surely, not bread.

Several years ago, the outrageous price for decent bread was met headlong by a book and its intriguing title: "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day." Sure. Uh-huh. Like anyone in her right mind would believe that.

Five minutes a day? It takes longer than that to bake a loaf of frozen Bridgford dough -- not exactly a hearty, artisan choice, but bread nonetheless. And if this book were touting some prepackaged mix or pricey piece of equipment, I wasn't interested. The photo on the cover is what compelled me to explore further. If what I was seeing was correct and the title was not a trick, this would qualify as "too good to be true."

The verdict is in: It's true, but not too good to be true. Authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois have truly taken the home-baking world by storm. They have created a method that takes out all of the variables of baking yeast breads: the time, the hassle, the waiting, the worrying. All of that is gone.

I stand before you a changed woman, a consistent baker of homemade artisan bread -- the rustic, beautiful kind of bread you see in a European bakery; the kind of bread that is made once a day, consumed by the family and then replaced the following day. Every day. And yes, I am as busy as I ever was. Even I have five minutes a day to bake bread. I've joined the BYOB movement (bake your own bread), and so far so good.

Here's the deal: On most Saturdays, I take about 10 minutes to make up the Master Recipe. (Find it online at www.artisanbreadinfive.com, complete with photos and detailed instructions.)

 

The ingredients are simple: water, flour, yeast and salt. That's it. No eggs, oil or sugar. I measure the ingredients and mix to incorporate. I pick up the bowl, dump the dough into my proofing box (a 40-cup plastic container with a lid), leave it on the counter for two hours and then move it to the refrigerator. All of this takes just a few minutes and makes enough dough for eight small loaves that will last two weeks in the fridge.

When I want to bake a loaf, I open the box, grab a wad of dough, dust it with a little flour, shape it quickly and set it on a wooden peel. As the oven heats and I do other things, there it sits for 40 minutes to an hour. I place it on a baking stone and pop it into the oven, and in about 30 minutes we have fresh, European bakery-style bread that is just to die for. Did I say no kneading? None! I tell you this is so simple, so awesome and so gratifying.

Since I became a BYOBer, I've used the master dough to make breadsticks, soft pretzels, pizza and dinner rolls.

Here's the best part: A decent loaf of bread at my grocery store is now closing in on $4. A loaf of my homemade artisan bread? That costs about 40 cents. That's right, 1/10 the cost, and it's about 10 times better, too.

There's something more for me that comes with baking bread. It's soul-soothing. I love knowing that I have lots of yeast in the freezer and plenty of flour in the pantry. My survival gear makes me feel self-reliant.

I like that.

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Mary invites questions, comments and tips at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, 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 webpage at www.creators.com.

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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