Bread the easy way

Who doesn't love homemade bread? The sweet yeasty fragrance that fills the home as the loaf bakes to golden perfection in the oven, the sight of the loaf as it is turned out of its pan to cool on a rack and then, the final reward of each warm, ch...

Who doesn't love homemade bread? The sweet yeasty fragrance that fills the home as the loaf bakes to golden perfection in the oven, the sight of the loaf as it is turned out of its pan to cool on a rack and then, the final reward of each warm, chewy bite that makes it simply irresistible.

I began to tackle the art of yeast-bread making when I was just a little girl as I stood beside my grandma in her farm kitchen, helping her stir the flour into the moist dough. Thanks to my grandma's skill and willingness to share it, I became hooked on breadmaking.

For some, it is the intimidation of working with yeast and kneading the dough that keeps them from making bread. For others, it is simply lack of time that prevents their enjoyment of mixing, kneading and forming their own loaves.

For all of you, I have great news. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois have figured out how you can successfully and easily have homemade bread, everyday if you like, in just five minutes of active work time. The secret? Hertzberg, with a background in science, discovered he could mix up high-moisture yeast dough and store it in the refrigerator. By preparing enough dough at one time that could yield four or five loaves, all he had to do was pull out a small quantity each day and create a beautiful loaf of bread. When he shared his secret with Francois, a baker and pastry chef who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, she used the secret to develop decadent pastries. Together, they decided to write a cookbook, sharing their novel breadmaking idea.

I tasted a little chunk of the Brioche Filled with Chocolate Ganache when I recently ran into Hertzberg and Francois, both of whom live in the Twin Cities, at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul where they were promoting their newly released cookbook, "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." As the little sample nugget of brioche melted in my mouth, Francois told me how easy it was to make. Easier than going to the bakery to buy one.


I must say I was a little leery of how this innovative method of bread baking would work. I decided to give it a try. I found the master Brioche recipe in the cookbook. Brioche is a bread rich with butter and eggs and just slightly sweet. I decided to roll up thick, chocolate ganache in the first loaf. If it really was as easy as Francois promised and as delicious as Brioche should be, I knew it would be a wonderful holiday gift for my chocolate-loving friends. I would store the remaining dough in the refrigerator and use it to make Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls, Almond Brioche, and maybe just try forming the last grapefruit-sized piece of dough into buttery crescent rolls.

With no proofing the yeast and no kneading, it took no time at all to mix the dough in a large plastic container.

And now I'm a believer. The Brioche Filled with Chocolate Ganache is decadent. I have two portions of the dough in my freezer, where Hertzberg and Francois claim I can keep it for up to four weeks, and one still in the refrigerator just waiting to be turned into something delicious within the next few days.

If you are looking for a gift for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list, make a loaf of artisan bread using one of the nearly 100 recipes in "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day," and wrap it up with a copy of the book. Perfect!

Brioche Filled with Chocolate Ganache
1½ cups lukewarm water
1½ tablespoons granulated yeast (1½ packets)
1½ tablespoons salt
8 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup honey
1½ cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan
7½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ pound (4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon rum
5 tablespoons corn syrup
1 egg white, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Granulated sugar for sprinkling on top

Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey and 1½ cups melted butter with the water in a 5-quart bowl or lidded (not airtight) food container. Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon. You can also use a 14-cup capacity food processor or a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook. If you're not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour. The dough will be loose but will firm up when chilled. Don't try to work with it before chilling. You may notice lumps in the dough but they will disappear in the finished product.

Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.

The dough can be used as soon as it's chilled after the initial rise. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days. Beyond 5 days, freeze the dough in 1-pound portions in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. When using frozen dough, thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using, then allow the usual rise and rest times.


At baking time, prepare the ganache by melting the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave on low, until smooth. Remove from heat, add the 2 tablespoons butter and stir until incorporated. Stir the cocoa into the rum, add the corn syrup and mix until smooth. Add to the chocolate.

Lightly butter a 9 x 4 x 3-inch nonstick loaf pan. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape in into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Using a rolling pin, roll out the ball into a ¼-inch-thick rectangle, dusting with flour as needed.

Spread ½ cup ganache evenly over the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Starting at the short end, roll up the dough, being careful to seal the bare edges. Gently tuck the loose ends underneath, elongate into an oval and drop into the prepared pan. Allow to rest 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a pastry brush, paint the top crust with egg white. Sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar.

Bake the brioche for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the sugar caramelizes. Remove from the pan and cool slightly, then drizzle the remaining ¼ cup ganache over the top crust. Cool completely and slice.

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