I am extremely pleased to have the dynamic duo behind best
selling cookbooks: artisan bread in five minutes a day, healthy bread in five
minutes a day and artisan pizza & flatbread in five minutes a day. Clearly this bread-genius duo has it down pat
when it comes to artisan breads. Artisan
breads made lighting fast I might add.
Zoe and Jeff have a bread blog too! http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/
Jeff: Yes, our backgrounds are different, but we both spent some time at home with kids when they were little—we met because our toddlers were in a music class together.
Jeff: Necessity was the mother of invention. I was a busy medical resident who loved bread, and my wife taught me the traditional method so I could make my beloved rye bread in my spare time. Since I had zero spare time, I had to economize on lengthy steps, and ultimately, what really saved time was making a large batch of dough and using it over a week or more. Otherwise there’s too much prep, mixing, and cleaning bowls. It takes wet dough to do that (but not too wet), and getting it just right was the hard work of these books.
Jeff: Sure did, I went straight from college to med school, and I expected to practice adult medicine and do research, maybe in a part-time academic practice. But after a few years in practice, I got interested in computers in health care, trained in a research fellowship, and started a consulting practice in health care computing. That freed up my time for family, hobbies, and delving into other interests. Like bread-baking.
Jeff: Well, it might, but the concern is that we might throw the baking pans at each other! Seriously, I’m not sure I was destined to work that hard. Providing great food to customers is hard, hard work with long hours, and I have so much respect for people who do it. I’m just not sure it’s right for me.
Jeff: It turns out that recipe-testing is a lot like the scientific method. You have a best guess about what will work, you do some experiments, and if they don’t produce what you expected, you refine your guess—and change the ingredients list!
Jeff: Our agent, Jane Dystel, was sold on the concept immediately, along with our editor at Thomas Dunne Books, the late Ruth Cavin. Without Jane and Ruth—no book series for us. They were sure that if the method actually worked, people would flock to it. And for some reason, they believed us, without ever having made the bread themselves. The proof came from our readers, who propelled the book by word of mouth (we have about 500,000 copies in print for all three titles).
Jeff: Of course! We both love travel, and whatever we eat and love when we’re traveling with our families, we try to recreate with our stored dough. Between us, we’ve spent time in France, Italy, Turkey, Germany, Britain, and Greece—all countries with great traditional bread cultures. Samples from those places are all over our books. And of course, there’s more mundane research, eating all the good bread we can find in our local bakeries, and reading everything on the subject that we can get our hands on.
Zoe: Wow, thank you! Zoebakes.com is my playground for sweets, and where I go to relax. I have an insatiable sweet tooth, so baking desserts just seems to find its way into my daily routine. I like to recreate desserts I might find in a restaurant, but in a way people can easily do at home. Which means lots of step-by-step photos.
Zoe: The gluten-free breads in our books were the most challenging to develop. They use a list of ingredients I was not used to and techniques that are quite different from traditional breads. Not only did the recipes have to taste great, but they had to be fast and easy to use. I am thrilled to say we did just that.
Jeff: Provencal Roasted Red Pepper Fougasse, a folded flatbread that’s visually stunning and unbelievably savory. Don’t forget the salt!
Jeff: That is exactly it for me. I moved to Minneapolis in 1987 and couldn’t find New York deli-style rye bread that I’d grown up with. So I had to learn to make it myself.
Photo by Mark Luinenburg
Jeff: James Beard, because of Beardon Bread. Like Julia Child in Mastering the Art…, James was saying that great homemade food doesn’t need to be hard for amateurs to achieve. He fitted his bread recipes so they’d sit on two facing sheets, which influenced us greatly. James never experimented with stored dough, but I like to think he’d have been open to it.
Jeff: Travel, eat, cook, run, and bike. Bike commuting’s my new thing.
It takes more than hard work and a good idea. You need a bit of luck. We had a unique idea, but if we hadn’t had some luck—getting the New York Times, the Today Show, and Associated Press to cover us—the book would never have gotten wide exposure. But if you have a unique cooking idea, and you’re willing to do the networking to get the idea out there, you have a shot. And self-publishing may make it easier to break into this business—don’t discount that.
Thank you both for the interview.
For the giveaway:
one lucky person will win one copy of each of their books (3 books total)
please leave a comment telling us what kind of homemade bread you'd like to make or have made.
one comment per person please.
no anonymous comments please; have a valid name & email in signature line!
we'll do the drawing on Friday November 2, 2012.