I can see why Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking was such a hot seller this holiday season: if you know someone who was inspired to try bread baking by Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread and is now hooked, this book is the perfect gift for them. Shrewd marketing by Thomas Dunne Press.
The "revolution" spoken of in the title is a low-knead, delayed fermentation technique very similar to the famous no-knead technique. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François take it one step further and suggest refrigerating the dough to stretch the fermentation out for a number of days. The longer and slower the fermentation, the better the flavor.
The title is a bit hyperbolic, since delayed fermentation and low-knead techniques have been used by bakers for many years, but the recent rediscovery of these techniques by casual bakers certainly has helped bread baking as a hobby rebound from its Atkins-era low. The breadth of recipes offered in this book should keep that momentum going. Zoë and Jeff are clearly talented bakers, and they extend this technique for use on ryes, brioches, seeded bread, challah, and broad range of other recipes. The book even includes a handful of recipes for soups and other things that go well with a fresh loaf of home baked bread.
Advanced bakers may find the absence of weights or bakers' percentages in the recipes frustrating, and there is less emphasis on teaching the fundamental principles of bread baking than in my favorite entry level baking books. Nevertheless, I would enthusiastically recommend this book to any no-knead baker looking to expand their repertoire, and more experienced bakers will find the simplicity of technique and wide variety of recipes in the book appealing.