Bread in Half the Time – Book Review

Bread in half the time is by Linda West Eckhardt and Diana Collingwood Butts. It was first released in 1991 and is now found mainly in second-hand bookshops. It is a massive workbook with 344 pages, including many well-presented illustrations.

While others since this book was published have included micro-rise bread making techniques in their overviews of bread making, this was the first serious and focussed work on using a microwave oven to reduce the time waiting for bread to rise. It is sub-titled ‘Use your microwave and food processor to make real yeast bread in 90 minutes’, and their recipes live up to that expectation — after a little practice, that is!

The micro-rise process is really very straightforward, although it certainly brings a different rhythm to bread making. One reviewer commented that since she had started making micro-rise bread she no longer needed store-bought bread, such was the balance of time and the reward of having home made bread so quickly available. This is not to say it’s an ‘instant bread’ recipe — there’s no such thing if ‘real’ bread is on the agenda. Planning ahead so there is time available to focus on bread making is sensible, but it is a much reduced time frame and much easier to manage.

Beginners will find the detailed introductory section most helpful, as it provides much information on the ingredients required for bread making and their role in creating bread (being flour, salt, sugar, yeast, eggs, fat). Various kitchen equipment is also covered, with much consideration given to microwaves and their settings and options. Nevertheless, it is the wide range of step-by-step micro-rise recipes — 200 pages worth — which is the big attraction. While it is possible to dive straight in to any recipe of choice, reading the introduction to the micro-rise method will make that first loaf much easier to create. The range of breads is broad, from black bread to French bread, pizza dough to fougasse – all using a food processor and microwave. For those who would prefer to use their bread machine, there are ample recipes for this also, dealing with basic and health breads, brunch breads, flatbreads, bagels and buns, as well as sweet breads.

This is not a coffee table book but one for the kitchen bench, where it’s direction will provide not only a pleasurable baking experience but delicious loaves of bread.