Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë Francois of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day fame (and the followup, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day), have just put out the third book in their wildly popular series: Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day. The duo, which consists of a medical doctor (Jeff) and an award-winning pastry chef (that would be Zoë), have spread their wings and launched an exploration of global flatbreads and the world of flavors that can be paired with them.
Jeff and Zoë were kind enough to take a break from their busy book tour to answer a few questions for Bay Area Bites readers. Here’s a peek into what inspired their international journey, and how they spent an entire year eating countless pizzas. Oh, the sacrifice!
This is your third book. Now that you’ve covered Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread In Five Minutes a Day, how did you come up with the idea for pizza and flatbreads?
Jeff: It seemed to us that the country was being swept up into a high-end pizzeria craze. These places are popping up all over the country, claiming Pizza Vera Napoletana status and all that, but it’s a pretty expensive night out and our readers want something they can do at home. Plus, we already knew that the pizzas and flatbreads were clearly the fastest things in our books. After you stretch them flat, they’re ready for the oven. That’s not true for loaf breads, which need to rest for 45 to 90 minutes after shaping. So pizza and flatbread works for a busy weeknight.
Zoë: Pizza is one of my favorite foods and this project was an excuse to eat it at every meal. My sons love this book best of all, even after two years of serving them pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In fact, my oldest son now makes his own, start to finish. It is an excellent way to get kids in the kitchen.
How did working on this book differ from working on the others?
Jeff: It meant thinking back to all my travel experiences around the Mediterranean — so for me, that’s Spain, Morocco, Italy, and France. When I travel, I eat, and that’s how I categorize everything. This book was basically a travelogue for me, because these breads originated in the Middle East, and spread by water. It’s my favorite part of the world.
Zoë: I took my family on a research trip to Turkey, Greece and Italy. We ate our way through the countries and then I came home to recreate the flavors. It was so inspiring and I discovered a whole new world of spices being in Turkey. This book is a real adventure of flavors, beyond the pizzas that we all know and love.
Besides the obvious pizza topic, how is Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day different from Artisan Bread and Healthy Bread? How is it similar?
Jeff: What’s similar is that we start with dough that we optimized for long-term storage in the fridge– up to two weeks for doughs without eggs or dairy. That’s what changes everything, because you mix once, and bake up to eight half-pound pizzas, and it makes doing this nightly possible. And we have whole grain and gluten-free options in the book. So what’s different? For one thing, it’s a whole book of offbeat and familiar pizza toppings, fully explored. Then, about the doughs — for the whole grain, we didn’t need vital wheat gluten for this book (as we did in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day) because these don’t have to support a tall loaf, so less structure is needed. And in our white dough recipes, we ventured into the territory of true Italian-style flours and how to approximate them with more readily-available stuff. And, in this book, we wanted to get into our readers’ entire meal, so there are more soups and dips than in our other books. These breads can form the basis for everything you eat.
Zoë: We also try to make our books a tool to help people feel confident about baking everything from simple breads to a roasted-vegetable stuffed, Italian torta. Our Tips and Techniques chapters are as valuable as the recipes themselves. We want to teach people to bake, so they share the joy we get from it.
For more about Jeff and Zoë, you can visit their blog, artisanbreadinfive.com. And try their gluten-free brioche recipe!