You might think a doctor makes an unlikely cookbook author. But careers take interesting twists and turns--after a few years in medical practice, I trained in medical computer science, and established a consulting practice, helping develop computer systems to track and improve the health of people with chronic diseases. As my own boss, I had time to spend with my young children. Making my own time also let me indulge my obsession with food, baking, and recipes. I'd come to Minneapolis in 1987 for a medical residency, and it's a great town, but in 1987, the artisan bread revolution hadn't hit. I pined for the great European and ethnic breads I'd grown up with in New York City. So my wife, a talented college co-op baker, taught me the traditional bread-baking method, and I was hooked. I read everything that had ever been written about bread baking and fantasized about building a backyard brick oven.
Working 100-hour weeks, I didn't really have time for a new hobby. So I started tinkering and experimenting, and found that dough can be stored for much longer than traditional books recommend, so long as it's mixed very wet--and having the dough pre-mixed and ready to go is what saves time for busy people. Baking professionals might say that a high level of "hydration" allows for a very long "retard" phase under refrigeration. But then, most professionals wouldn't be willing to try storing mixed dough in the fridge for two weeks.
Except for chef Zoë François, whom I met in our kids' music class. I told her about a fluke experience I'd had in 2000--calling in to Lynne Rossetto Kasper's The Splendid Table radio show, and asking how an amateur like me might get a cookbook into print--a bread cookbook that promised artisan bread in five minutes a day. An editor was listening and had requested a book proposal, but I never did it--my wife and I'd gotten too busy with our second daughter. This wonderful offbeat opportunity never would have amounted to anything without the blessing of a chance meeting. Zoë was more of an adventurer than her peers, so we got busy on a proposal, and ultimately, the manuscript for Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
Artisan Bread sold out within days during the busy Holiday season of 2007. With great reviews and the strong support we provide at the Artisan Bread website, we did well enough to garner a second book offer. Our readers had asked us for whole grain and gluten-free versions of our method, so that's what we wrote. Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day has been a joy for me, in part because it let me continue to contribute to preventive health.
Not to mention letting me continue to bake bread twice a day.