10 Things I Wish I’d Put into My Books

It’s been 17 years since I published my first bread cookbook, meaning I’ve spent more than 17 years learning, tweaking, experimenting with, and obsessing about bread. I included many of those discoveries and realizations in the next seven books, but needless to say I’ve thought a lot about what I’d do differently if I had it to do all over again. As author James McBride once said, “If I had known so many people were going to read that book, I would’ve written a better book.” Just kidding—I still stand by my original recipes, tips, and techniques. But if I knew then what I know now, here’s what I would’ve included:

1. Always store the dough for at least a few days before you bake a loaf from a new batch: In as many words, I do say this in the books, but I didn’t want to deny readers from having fresh, hot bread ASAP. Years of trial and error, however, and sampling many, many loaves of bread (cue tiny violin), have convinced me that slightly aged dough is far superior to Day One bread. This means that you might have to stagger batches, but it’s worth it. The flavor deepens and improves in the refrigerator. The crumb develops a more open, “custard-crumb” effect. If you really can’t wait, using a little pre-fermented dough (“pâte fermentée“) can approximate the effect, but not quite as much as aging the dough, which I think reaches its peak at about the halfway point of the recipe’s storage recommendation. That said…

2. …Always use a little old dough (“pâte fermentée“)—about a cup or so—to jump-start flavor in the new batch, and don’t bother washing the dough bucket unless it has eggs or dairy. This is another great lazy-person trick (and laziness is what motivated me to simplify bread-baking in the first place). Just build the new batch on top of the old. And consider turning your old dough into a “sponge.” First, measure out all your ingredients for your new batch. Then, dilute your cup of old dough with water from the recipe, adding a little of the recipe’s flour, and mixing until it’s like thick pancake batter. Add a pinch of the recipe’s yeast, and let it sit overnight before incorporating into the mix. Fully aged dough can be frozen to be used this way, and that’s how I usually do it.

3. Always use a little rye flour in basic white doughs: As little as a tablespoon or two of rye in a four-pound batch deepens flavor and improves the character of white bread. Try this with my basic white-flour recipe and you’ll see what I mean. Whole wheat flour has a similar effect, though not as dramatic. Either way, it takes just a little to heighten and enhance the flavor of white bread without sacrificing its classic deliciousness.

4. Weigh your ingredients: Forget about cup-measures. When my 2007 book was published, it, and most U.S. recipes were written for cup-measures; my subsequent books give weights as well as volumes. With the availability of inexpensive digital scales, the food world’s recognized weights as a more accurate way to measure ingredients, especially flours. If I were starting now, all my recipes would be in metric weights only, which yield much more intuitive numbers. The basic recipe in tip #1 above would be based on 1,000 grams of flour, and 750 grams of water (or 75% hydration by “Baker’s Percentage”).

5. Rise times may vary. Don’t sweat it. In my first book (2007), I called for 1.5 tablespoons of yeast, which is a lot for four pounds of dough. I wanted there to be zero chance of failure, because this book was aimed at non-bakers, many of whom think of yeast as the great bogeyman of the kitchen. And yes, that high yeast dose meant that in pretty much any kitchen, at pretty much any temperature, you’d get full and fast rising, with the dough at least doubling in volume within two hours. But some readers found the yeast flavor too strong, so in subsequent books, I called for 1.0 tablespoon of yeast. But that means that sometimes the rise isn’t complete in two hours, especially if the water or the room is cool. Don’t sweat about this– just let it go longer if it doesn’t seem to have doubled. All this is especially true in the recipes calling for eggs– to prevent slow rise there, let your eggs come to room temperature before using in recipes, and per USDA recommendations, refrigerate egg dough at the two-hour mark. Speaking of slow rising–I’ve started mixing my salt with the flour, rather than the water. My guess is that this doesn’t make much difference, but salt has some inhibitory effect on yeast, and salty water may slow your initial rise. This becomes more of an issue when you go to 1 tablespoon or less of yeast, or if you’re trying cool-water rising. Which brings me to…

6. Consider the low-yeast version of my recipes: I embraced this practice too late for my first book, but you can considerably decrease yeast, even from the 1 tablespoon that I now consider standard for a 4- to 5-pound batch. Many people seem to prefer the flavor and consider the longer initial rise time to be worth it. If you try this with egg-enriched bread, the USDA recommends that it go into the fridge at the 2-hour mark, and it will not have doubled by that time. Don’t worry, it’ll catch up during dough storage. Check out my post on the low-yeast version. If you really want to try a slow rise, which some people find heightens flavor, use cool or even cold water. But expect the rise to take days, and don’t do this with egg or dairy doughs.

You can definitely mix by hand…

7. Get a stand mixer, and use the dough hook: In the early days, I always mixed by hand. It was satisfying, worked just fine, and it proved that you don’t need special equipment to bake bread at home. But if you’re making dough frequently, like I am, or if you have wrist or shoulder problems, the stand mixer is a miracle. I like the six-quart machines, the bowl-lift variety, because the “tilt-head” models can drip dough all over when you tilt back the head. And the six-quart capacity allows you to rise and store the dough in the same vessel in which you mixed. While I’ve used a Kitchen-Aid exclusively (my first one is going strong at 10 years), I’ve heard great things about other premium brands as well (disclosure: Kitchen-Aid sponsored a post here on the website when I reviewed the machine I use today). In my books, I make a distinction between using the dough hook versus the “paddle/flat beater” attachment to mix wet dough. Bottom line: I think the dough hook works better, regardless of your machine’s capacity (yes, that is the paddle attachment in the photo above, I loved the blur 😊). If you make recipes from my gluten-free book, the results are definitely better if you use a stand mixer. Gluten-free flours really like to be fully emulsified for best results.

8. Fully aged dough loses some rising power, but it still makes great and flavorful flatbreads, like the fougasse above, or any pizza, from my Pizza and Flatbread book. That book is out of print and hard to find, but I have a fougasse recipe here on the website. Truth be told, pizza and flatbread have been my favorite adventures in bread, and fully aged dough works great here. You don’t need an exuberant rise with pizza or flatbread.

9. It’s OK to lower the oven temperature for loaf-pan breads like this one, especially for recipes high in whole grain flour: In the books, I tried to keep everything simple and consistent, so virtually all the lean breads (those made without eggs, sweetener, or much fat) are baked at 450F. Some readers, in some ovens, found that the breads were over-browning before the interior was fully baked, especially in deeper pans. If this is the case for you, turn down the heat to 400F and bake longer–it can be an hour or more for a big loaf-pan bread.

10. Sacrilege alert! Freezing bread works: I spent years as a home-based consultant and author, testing bread recipes all the time, with 24-hour access to my kitchen—and plenty of fresh bread. I found myself hacking off hunks of it all day, and eating it with butter, cheese, and jam. At one point, I must have been eating at least a half-pound of bread a day. Even if it’s whole grain—and it wasn’t always—that can’t be healthy. I had to stop the madness! If like me, bread is your weakness, consider removing the temptation: slice the bread as soon as it’s cool. Reassemble the loaf, put it into air-tight storage (I use two layers of plastic produce bags), and freeze. You can chisel off a slice (or other reasonable portion!) with a table knife, then defrost or toast. It’ll still better than anything you can get in the supermarket.


11. Let 1 pound (or bigger) round or loaf-pan breads rest for 90 minutes (not 40), and cover them while resting: In my first books, I called for a 40 minute rest after shaping the basic 1-pound ball-shaped bread, and for that very short rest-time, the dough surface doesn’t dry out much. Unless you’re in a very dry environment (the desert, or winter anywhere). Some people found that the rise was restricted following those directions. To take your breads to another level, cover the resting shaped loaf with plastic wrap or a roomy overturned bowl, and go for 90 minutes. Skinny loaves, or rolls–can stick with short resting times.

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Stovetop bread, on induction, electric, or gas — with a video!

In all my books, I call this fast and delicious flatbread “naan,” which is a specialty from India, but truth be told, it isn’t really naan, because the authentic article is made in a massive ceramic oven (“tandoor”), and the flatbreads are slapped onto the sides of its huge bowl-shaped surface and cooked over charcoal. My version is from page 260 of “The New Artisan Bread in Five … .” For those of us who don’t have a tandoor at home, we can still make chewy, fragrant flatbreads in a skillet, right on the stovetop. I’ve done it on gas, electric, and induction stovetops, but I’m going to put in a brief plug for induction, because I recently got one, and I’m in love with it. It’s instant-on, rapidly responsive, and very, very stingy with energy and carbon emissions. This is part of the electric transition that is probably in all our futures and that my family has started trying to make. Induction is nothing like traditional radiant electric stovetops — it’s actually better than gas, by a lot, despite persuasive advertising from the gas industry, since the 1930s which brought us the wacky expression, “Now you’re cookin’ with gas!” I was a gas diehard … until I tried induction at a friend’s house. Melissa Clark had a great article on this last year if you’re interested in learning more. But this bread, which doesn’t care what kind of stovetop you use, is fast and delicious, and stovetop cooking doesn’t heat up your kitchen like an oven, so it’s a great choice for the upcoming warm weather (someday soon, fingers crossed, even here in Minnesota). Read on …

Grilled Veggie Pizza

Grilled Veggie Pizza for July 4th with Red Star Yeast

Grilled pizza is a favorite summer pastime for us; we have spent many hot summer days making everything from Pesto Pizza to Breakfast Pizzas. Today we want to share one of our favorite pizzas with you: Grilled Pizza with Summer Veggies. We keep our crust crisp by grilling one side, flipping it, and then adding just enough fresh veggies and cheese. Eating a slice of warm, grilled pizza is truly magical.

Below you will find our directions to making pizza on the gas grill. Please note that we do call for a baking stone in our recipe, but you can attempt this right on the grates if you don’t have one (but a baking stone does make things a little easier). If you only have a charcoal grill, we have a post here on how to use that.

If you head to our Breadin5 Instagram page, you can watch our reels and see us make the pizza on the grill! 

(Need a refresher on grilling pizzas? Check out all our tips and tricks here.)

Grilled Veggie Pizza

Pizza Dough

3 cups lukewarm water
1/8 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon granulated yeast
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1 tablespoon kosher salt
7 cups bread flour

Ingredients for finishing

1/3 cup pizza sauce

1/2 cup of bell peppers (we used a mixture of green, red, and yellow), sliced thin

1/4 cup yellow onion, sliced thin

1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced thin

3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

For the dough

Combine the warm water, olive oil, yeast, sugar, and salt in a 5-quart bowl; preferably, in a lidded (not airtight) plastic container or food-grade bucket. Mix until all of the flour is incorporated using a stand mixer or dough whisk. Cover, and allow to rise at room temperature for 2 hours. You can use the dough right away, or refrigerate it for up to 14 days.

To Grill the Pizza
Heat your gas grill: Place a baking stone on the primary burners. Turn all burners to high and let heat up for 20 minutes. After they have heated, turn the side without the stone down to low heat.

While your grill is heating, pull out a 10 ounce piece of dough from your bucket and quickly form it into a ball. Let it sit on the counter while you gather your toppings.

Roll the ball out into a 1/8-inch-thick round. If the ball is resisting just let it sit for about 5 minutes and it will relax and allow you to work with it.

Using a floured pizza peel, place the shaped pizza dough over the pizza stone. Let it cook there until the top starts to bubble and the bottom creates a char to your liking. Remove the pizza from the grill and place on a nearby work surface. Making sure the charred-side is up, top your pizza: cover the pizza with sauce, veggies, and then the cheese.

Then, using your pizza peel, bring the pizza back to the grill, and finish cooking. Place over the hot side again, keeping a very careful watch. As soon as your char-marks look great, slide the pizza over to the cool side and cover the grill. Let cook for 4 to 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Remove the pizza from the grill, move to a wire rack, and let cool for a minute or two. Slice into pieces and serve.

Tip: If your pizza cheese won’t brown on the grill, you can use a kitchen torch to give it some color.

Note: Red Star Yeast provided yeast samples for recipe testing, and sponsors BreadIn5’s website and other promotional activities. This website is reader-supported; BreadIn5, LLC earns affiliate commissions when buying products through links on this website.

Incredible crust: bread-baking in a cloche


Many readers have asked about baking bread inside a closed cast-iron pan, based on a much older method, where bread is baked inside a closed clay pot (or “cloche,” meaning bell, in French).  Both methods depend on trapped steam from the dough to create a perfect crust, but the clay pot has the added benefit of being porous, so moisture is trapped, but also conducted away from the surface as the bread bakes.  I tested the Sassafras brand “La Cloche” product, and I’m very impressed with the crust I’m getting –take a look at the picture above; this crust is thin and shatters when broken (the burned bits are perfect in artisan loaves; that’s how you know you’ve baked long enough).  Keep in mind that these crust results are hard to re-create with loaves very high in whole wheat (because of oils in the wheat’s germ).  The bread above is about 15% whole grains– it’s a light version of the Peasant Loaf in the book, and of course the basic recipe works great in this situation.  Whole grain breads perform beautifully in “La Cloche,” but the crust tends to be softer and thicker. One other thing to note–any clay product is somewhat fragile, and after some years of owning the Sassafras product, the base did crack (still quite usable with a stone underneath).

For crust aficionados, I think the “La Cloche” results are a little better than what I get inside closed cast-iron. 

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Mini-Wreath Loaves with Bread Flour

People often ask us why I only used all-purpose flour (where we called for white flour) in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Why not “bread” flour, which is higher in protein and is often considered traditional in bread?  Well, not in all traditions. French baguettes, for example, are typically made with lower-protein flour for a more tender, and less chewy crumb.  And we knew most of our potential book users already had all-purpose flour in the house.  But sometimes, a stiffer dough is desirable, like when something really needs to hold its shape, like these wreath-shaped, well… bagels.  You can always swap bread flour into our recipes that call for all-purpose, just by adding a little extra water (details below).  

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Video: secrets of baguettes on the gas grill for summer!

OK, first the disclaimer, I did not bake the breads above, this is from an old post I did after a trip to France, where these loaves were bought and eaten.  I also need to admit that it looks like I bit the perfect tip off the baguette on the right (I did, on my walk back from the boulangerie–bakery).  Truth moment, even though you can bake baguettes in your gas grill (and I’ll prove it in a video below), they won’t look quite like these. No matter, they’re still delicious. Read on–click “more” below…

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Potato Brioche Buns

Potato Brioche Buns for Father’s Day

It’s almost Father’s Day (did you remember?) and that might mean pulling out the grill this weekend and serving Dad up some serious burgers. We came up with this soft and delicious Potato Brioche Bun to serve alongside your favorite burger recipe, and it’s easy enough to put together that the kids can jump in and help, too. As with all our no-knead, refrigerated dough recipes, you can bake as little or as much as you want. So if you are social distancing and only need a couple buns (because the grill-out party is small this year), this is a perfect recipe for that.

If cooking and mashing potatoes just seems like too much work (even for a holiday), you can always check out our straight up Brioche Burger Buns, complete with Lamb Burger and Cilantro-Yogurt Sauce.

Potato Brioche Buns (based on the Brioche Recipe from New Artisan)

1 1/4 cup warm water

1 cup mashed Russet potatoes (sent through a food ricer for fine consistency, or mashed by hand)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

2 large eggs, room temperature

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 cups all-purpose flour

Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water)

Seeds, for sprinkling (optional) – plain sesame seeds work fine; I used a bagel seed mix

Mix the water, potato, butter, eggs, sugar, yeast, and salt in a 5-quart bowl, or lidded (not airtight) food container.

Mix in the flour, using a spoon until all of the flour is incorporated.

Cover (not airtight), and allow to sit at room temperature for about two hours. Chill the dough for at least two hours, and up to 3 days.

The dough can be used as soon as it is chilled. This dough is way too sticky to use after the initial rise, but once it is chilled it is very easy to handle. That said, because potatoes can vary in their water-content, you may have to adjust the flour–you can add more after everything’s mixed, but give the dough a couple of hours on the counter to re-ferment or the buns will be dense.

Divide the dough into 3 ounce pieces (this dough will make about 14 buns, but you can make less if desired). Gently smooth the pieces into round balls of dough. Grease six English Muffin Rings. Flatten the dough into 1/4-inch disks place them in the molds. If you don’t have rings you can make them free form, but they won’t keep their shape as well.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap (spraying the plastic with a little cooking spray will help it not to stick to the top of the buns) and allow the buns to rest for 30 to 60 minutes (depending on temperature of your kitchen), until the dough is just peeping over the top of the rings, and feels like a marshmallow when gently pressed/jiggled.

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Use a Pastry Brush to paint on the egg wash, and then sprinkle with seeds if desired.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until they are golden brown (I baked with steam for an extra soft bun, but you don’t have to do that).

Perfect for loading with a burger and toppings, or just nibbling on with a slice of cheese.

Easy Sourdough Starter (with new troubleshooting tips)

Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Before we even start, if you’ve already tried this recipe and are having trouble getting your sourdough starter to the “very-active” stage, or if your loaves aren’t rising well, or if they’re too dense, you can skip to the Troubleshooting tips below… scroll waaaay down. If you’re new to this page, start right here with this post about sourdough starter. –Jeff

This sourdough starter recipe appears in The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day–and also in The Best of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. You can create sourdough starter (in French, levain) easily and without dedicating your whole day to the project. In fact, it only takes a few minutes a day to get your starter up and running. It really is that easy, but it takes several days to “strengthen” your starter enough to actually use it to rise a batch of bread.

All you need to make your sourdough starter is flour, water and a container to keep it in. Nothing special or fancy. Just make sure the container can hold at least two quarts. You’ll see some Baking Bloopers below of what happens if your container is too small.

Sourdough Bread Loaf | Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Once you have created your starter you can use it to bake beautiful loaves, with or without added yeast. The flavor is incredible and you will still be making a large batch of dough and storing it for up to a week, so you will do the work on one day for many loaves.

To make the starter:

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Hot Cross Buns for Easter!

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, everybody loves hot cross buns! are the words to the children’s song, and they hold true even now. These little buns are traditionally served at Easter time: A sweet dough that is spiced, studded with dried (sometimes candied) fruit and decorated with a cross made of icing. I made them after many requests and my kids devoured them within minutes; they were nervous about the raisins, but the cream cheese crosses and scent of cinnamon and nutmeg drew them in.

As I researched these delicious buns I realized that there are just as many ways to make them as there are families who bake them. Some people slash the dough to make the cross, others use a flour and water paste to create the symbol and others use the sweet icing. Tell me how you make your buns, and if you don’t have a family tradition yet, you can start with these!

If you follow along on Breadin5’s Instagram, you can watch the bun-making in an Instagram story. The recipe comes from the latest book, Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which also has a whole chapter on Easter bread recipes.

Hot Cross Buns

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Chocolate Bread… Yes, chocolate!

chocolate bread

As you all know by now, at BreadIn5 we take our sweets very seriously and chocolate is an essential food group. So we wanted to share one of the great pleasures of The New Artisan Bread in Five: Chocolate Bread. It has an intense chocolate flavor without being too sweet. This bread is equally as good with a sweet cherry jam as it is with a sharp cheddar; it all just depends on your mood. There will rarely be leftovers (but just in case there are we’ve also got a recipe for Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding, page 362 of The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, that is out of this world!)

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