Health questions?

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When we wrote our books, we were aware of the controversies surrounding food consumption and its effect on health, and over the years we’ve received many questions related to health claims made in the media and in popular books. The answers are complex and the science is often inconclusive. Given that, we don’t make any specific health-promotion claims about the breads in our books. When we first wrote Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day in 2009, we knew that it’d generate lots of questions. Below (scroll down), you’ll find part of the introduction to that book, which addresses the state of the science related to nutrition and bread ingredients. In Healthy Bread, we baked with lots of whole wheat and other whole grains, and had a whole chapter on sourdough baking. But bread is a carbohydrate food, and the best advice that scientists give us is this: don’t binge on it. Eat bread and other energy-rich foods in moderation or you’ll gradually gain weight and put yourself at risk for diabetes and other chronic conditions. That’s the best science-based advice we can give. Two specific topics on which we get a lot of questions here on the website:

Sourdough? Are there health benefits, compared with breads made with commercial yeast? Short answer: the science is far from clear on this, and mainstream researchers aren’t promoting sourdough as having any particular health effects, despite it’s natural bacteria and yeast, and supposed effects on acid balance or glycemic index–the evidence just isn’t there. Like all breads, sourdough loaves are a carbohydrate food, and should be eaten in moderation. The main reason to eat sourdough is its wonderful flavor, and that’s the thinking that drove most of the choices in our books.

Gluten-free? We wrote Gluten-Free Bread in Five Minutes a Day primarily for people with celiac disease, a well-documented medical condition that may affect as much as 1% of the population. People with celiac cannot eat bread made from wheat or anything with gluten. For other folks who feel better when they don’t eat wheat or gluten, the science is newer, and less clear. We can’t make any claims about health benefits of gluten-free bread, other than that it’s the only option for celiacs. There’s no credible evidence suggestiong that everyone needs a gluten-free diet.

Read on for some basics on bread ingredients, from the introduction to Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (copyright 2009, 2016, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois):

1. Whole grain flour is better for you than white flour: Because whole grains include the germ and the bran, in addition to the starch-rich but fiber- and vitamin-poor endosperm whole grain flours bring a boatload of healthy substances into your diet, including phytochemicals (beneficial plant chemicals), vitamins, and fiber. Those are pretty much absent from white flour. Iron, niacin, folic acid, riboflavin, and thiamine are added back in enriched commercial white flour, but no other nutrients—so whole wheat delivers more complete nutrition than enriched white flour. But there’s more—because bran and germ in whole grains dilute the effect of pure starch in the endosperm, the absorption and conversion of starches into simple sugars is slowed, so blood glucose (the simplest sugar) rises more slowly after consumption of whole grains than it does after eating refined white flour products. Complex, high-bran carbohydrates are said to have a lower “glycemic index,” a measure of how fast your blood sugar rises after eating a particular food. The evidence for better handling of blood sugar, better digestive function, and heart health convinced the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make two recommendations in their current guidelines:

  • Consume a high-fiber diet, with at least 14 grams of dietary fiber per 1,000 calories consumed in an ideal-calorie diet each day. For a 2,000-calorie diet (appropriate for most women), that means about 28 grams of fiber a day. For a 2,500-calorie diet (appropriate for most men), that means 35 grams a day). 100% whole wheat bread contains a little less than 2 grams of fiber per slice if you cut a thin 1-ounce slice, and 3 to 4 grams if you cut a 2-ounce slice. White bread contains a quarter of that.
  • Make sure that at least half of your grain intake is whole grain. The recipes in this book will help you meet that goal.

2. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils are better for you than saturated and trans fats (like butter and hydrogenated oil): Switching to these oils or other heart-healthy fat sources can benefit those with high blood cholesterol.

3. Low-salt breads will benefit people with hypertension, heart failure, and kidney failure: This applies to all our breads—they all can be made with less or even zero salt, though the flavor will of course be different.

4. Nuts and seeds contain heart-healthy oils: Though they’re concentrated calorie sources, nuts and seeds are rich in vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fats (monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats).

5. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources for protective phytochemicals and vitamins: In Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, we have a whole chapter of breads enriched by fruits or vegetables, which are fiber-rich and loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. We’ll discuss the unique benefits of particular fruits or vegetables in sidebars next to recipes.

And one final word of advice about diet and health: Please don’t obsess about food. This is supposed to be fun. If you can put some healthy ingredients into your bread and you like the flavor, do it. Most of all, enjoy your food!

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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:

The recipe that excites me most in our latest book, The The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, is the easy Sourdough Starter. I’m an admitted baking geek, so spending hours on a recipe can be exciting to me, but I know this concept sounds like work to some and just terrifies others. That’s why Jeff and I set out to write these books in the first place, being able to compel busy people to bake bread at home has been our mission. Now you can also create a sourdough starter (in French, levain); easily, without fear 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 get your starter strong enough to actually use in a batch of bread. Until it is ready to go, you can always bake any of the other yeast filled recipes in our books.

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 of starter. 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: (more…)

Easy Dinner Rolls

Easy Dinner Rolls - Whole Wheat Recipe | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Soft pull-apart buns are a classic dinner accompaniment. Known for their tender texture and delicious taste, they are a favorite for both adults and children alike. The whole wheat version of our recipe found in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day gives you a slightly healthier spin without compromising the great, buttery taste. While they are easy enough to make any night of the week, these dinner rolls can also find their way to your entertaining table.

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Milk and Honey Braided Buns with Dried Fruit and Pearl Sugar

Milk and Honey Braided Buns with Dried Fruit and Pearl Sugar | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

The Holidays are quickly approaching, but I’m sure you’ve had some inkling of that, seeing as most stores started blasting the Christmas tunes the day after Halloween. I will admit to starting it a little too early, as this time of year is my favorite, and I’m always ready to jump into the celebration. Holiday baking is high on my list of favorite things to do, and while I spend plenty of time making cookies and bars and candy, yeasted treats are the most delicious.

We’ve made plenty of delicious holiday breads here on our site (Christmas Stollen, Brioche Cake with Sugared Cranberries, Pumpkin Spice Monkey Bread, and Panettone, just to name a few), and we’re going to add one more to the line up: Milk and Honey Braided Buns. Studded with dried fruit and topped with pearl sugar, these little braids are a lovely addition to any Christmas breakfast or New Years’ Brunch. (And, if you’re in need of any more Holiday music, I have a playlist here and here you can check out.)

Milk and Honey Braided Buns with Dried Fruit | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

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Whole Grain Christmas Stollen

stollen-hbin5-3-of-16

Christmas Stollen is a wonderful German baking tradition this time of year. A sweet loaf that is studded with dried fruit, spiced with cardamom and a special treat of almond paste runs through it. Once it comes out of the oven it is traditional to slather the warm loaf in butter then roll it in sugar, but we skip the extra butter and dust it with a thick layer of confectioners’ sugar to look like the snow outside. This loaf actually holds up very well for a couple of days and that makes it a great gift for the holidays.
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The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day is Available for Pre-Order!

The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

We are so pleased to announce that our newest book, The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, is available for pre-order (click to order)! The book will ship out on November 1 and it will be available in your local stores as well. This project has been a long time in the making. As soon as we got the chance to rework New Artisan Bread, we knew we’d  want to update our healthy book. We kept all the things we loved about the original book (many of the recipes, including our GF chapter) and added more 100% whole grain breads…. (more…)

Corrections to the first printings of The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (2016)

These snuck through in the first printings of The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day:

Page 337, Milk and Honey Raisin Bread, footnote to Ingredients table:  Asterisked footnote should read “If omitting vital wheat gluten, decrease water by 1/2 cup.” Correct quantity of water will then be 1 and 1/2 cups.

Page 354, Pumpkin Pie Brioche, ingredients table: Lukewarm water should be 1 1/4 cups / 10 ounces / 285 grams. There is a line in the recipe calling for 2 cups lukewarm water that should be struck from the table.