Coffee with Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François
Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, who are in the middle of a press tour for their new book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, were kind enough take the time to have coffee with me today.
Some background: Jeff and Zoë's previous book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (ABIFMAD) came out a little over two years ago (Jeff and Zoë did a Q&A with The Fresh Loaf community shortly thereafter). Though the book had been in production for some time, ABIFMAD was released at the peak of the enthusiasm for no-knead breadmaking stirred up by Mark Bittman's article on Jim Lahey's no-knead technique in the New York Times. ABIFMAD quickly became a bestseller, to date selling over 200,000 copies and remaining one of the top selling baking book on Amazon.com. It also spawned a popular blog.
ABIFMAD included numerous enriched doughs but very little about whole grain baking. Jeff and Zoë told me that through the blog they heard from many bakers trying to adapt the recipes in ABIFMAD to work better with whole grains. When the opportunity arose to do a follow up book, a focus on whole grains and healthier baking was the natural place for them to take it.
Thus Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (HBIFMAD) was born. The technique used in HBIFMAD is basically the same as that used in ABIFMAD: make a high hydration dough with minimal mixing and no kneading, then use refrigeration to extend the fermentation process for up to two weeks. Then, bake the bread when it is most convenient for you.
Though ABIFMAD rarely used ingredients that most bakers couldn't easily find in the nearest grocery store, HBIFMAD takes a long stroll down the health food aisle. As well as whole wheat breads, there are recipes using flours made from spelt, tapioca, mesquite, soy, rye, sorghum, teff, and emmer. Most of the butter fat has been replaced with olive oil or other healthful options. There is also a large section of the book titled "Breads with Hidden Fruits or Vegetables" which includes breads containing sweet potatoes, beets, prunes, lentils, even broccoli. Jeff, an MD, acknowledged that the current dietary recommendation of 9 half cup servings of fruits or vegetables is difficult for most folks to reach, and he took it as a challenge to develop recipes that would help people hit that target. Zoë, a pastry chef, enjoyed the challenge of developing great tasting recipes that contained ingredients people claim not to like.
Though not the primary focus, the book also contain a set of gluten-free recipes. Behind whole grain recipes, Jeff and Zoë said that gluten-free recipes were the second most commonly requested item on their site. Again, they enjoyed the challenge of developing tasty gluten-free recipes and they are pleased with the results. Gluten-free breads don't keep as well as traditional breads, they advise, but when eaten while fresh they can be as tasty as the real deal.
As far as baking breakthroughs go, their biggest discovery was the difference that adding vital wheat gluten can make in the longevity of whole grain doughs. "We found we weren't crazy about the result until we started testing our approach with vital wheat gluten," they said, "But with the addition of vital wheat gluten, the whole grain doughs remain springy enough and can be refrigerated long enough to bring out the more complicated flavors that one expects in a fully developed dough." You may need to order vital wheat gluten online or hunt for it to find it in your area, but if you are baking these types of breads Jeff and Zoë believe it is worth the extra effort.
With all the competing baking books coming out this year, it remains to be seen how well this book does, but the initial response they've received has been positive, and the size of the first print run suggests the publisher also has high hopes for HBIFMAD.
Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day is now available from St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books. The website for both books is artisanbreadin5.com. Also, the website BigBlackDogs.net is starting a baking group based on this book patterned after the popular BBA Challenge that many community members here are participating in.