I love making bread. Because it can be time consuming and requires advanced planning it is not something I do as often as I would like, but when I do get around to making it I find it very therapeutic and relaxing. Kneading can put me in a trance and the smoothness of a good dough is just heavenly. Then there is the smell and taste of a fresh loaf of bread - it is hard to beat.
About a year ago I got Artisan bread in Five Minutes and had grand plans of never buying store bought bread again. I had built this concept up in my head so much that I was nervous about starting. A year later and I hadn't done anything except read the book about 3 times. Finally this past weekend I got around to making my first batch of dough and I am now wondering why I waited.
If you aren't familiar with Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois bread baking philosophy, the concept is that with just five minutes of work you can produce fresh bread every day. To start a large batch of dough, which in most recipes can make up to 4 one pound loaves, is made. This isn't a starter as you would use in a sourdough, but a very wet ready to use batch of dough, that can last up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Each time you are ready to bake a loaf you "cloak the dough," break off a piece the size of a grapefruit, let it rise, then bake. A simple process that makes a wonderfully crusty and flavorful bread.
I highly recommend checking out Artisan bread in Five Minutes. The authors provide the reader a thorough explanation of the process while at the same time make it very easy to follow. There are a lot of great variations once you have mastered the basic concept and there are even some great recipes that use the bread once baked, such as Panzanella and Portuguese Fish Stew.
To get the feel for things I started off with the Master recipe which uses white flour, yeast, salt and water. Later in the book are additional recipes that experiment with other flours and flavors. I definitely have more to learn, but overall I was very happy with my first try. I have to admit that one thing I did find a little disappointing is that there is no kneading - in any of the steps - and while this is a great time saver it doesn't provide the "therapy" I am sometimes looking for when making bread.