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Bake beautiful holiday bread in 5 minutes a day with a new book from these local bakers

Raspberry Star Bread

Raspberry Star Bread Courtesy

Most holidays revolve around a grotesquely large hunk of meat, but let’s admit it: What we really want to binge on is the bread.

(Looking at you, Parker House rolls.)

Pastry chef Zoë François and her bread-baking business partner Jeff Hertzberg know this. That’s why they wrote Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day -- the duo’s seventh cookbook in the Bread in Five Minutes a Day series, and their sweetest yet.

“These are really the breads I love so much. They’re beautiful, they’re tasty, they’re kind of dessert-y,” François says. “This is really what people love to bake. It makes people feel good.”

The breads in this book -- which hit shelves Tuesday -- aren’t just tasty. They’re also showstopping centerpieces, almost too pretty to eat. There’s Raspberry Star Bread, which looks like an oversized, edible ornament; Koloocheh, a nutty Persian New Year bread as large and round as a sunflower; and Christopsomo, a Greek bread topped with an intricate, doughy cross.

“Bread in general has been a staple of people’s diets around the world,” François says. (Historically, it’s even been subsidized by governments.) From Scandinavia to the Middle East, the doughy book covers the globe. “We’re not claiming this bread is exactly like what you’re going to find in Iran or any other place, but they’re influenced by those cultures, they’re inspired by those cultures.”

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls Courtesy

Myriad religious traditions are represented in Holiday and Celebration Bread, from Sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) for Hanukkah to a swirly, sesame-seeded pita for Ramadan to sweet buns called Pan de Muerto for Mexico’s Día de los Muertos. The symbolic power of bread seems particularly important in the Easter section. There, you’ll encounter the Greek bread Tsoureki, in which red-dyed eggs symbolizing life are nestled in the strands of the bread, or Paska -- an Eastern European cylindrical bread with swirls representing the Trinity.

And, of course, there are the good ol’ universal comfort foods like a Family Size Soft Pretzel (an ode to the authors’ hometowns near New York City) and the Instagram-ready Ginormous Skillet Cinnamon Roll. Advanced bakers can try their hand at the most challenging recipes: those that use flaky dough, like turnovers, danish, and croissant-esque rolls.

All of these breads rely on the master recipe that made the authors food-world famous. Though it comes in several variations, the recipe relies on a simple concept: pre-mixing wet dough and storing it in the refrigerator. You can make up to a two-week supply of dough at once, then use it at will to bake multiple recipes anytime. No yeast proofing, no kneading, and no bread machine required. Admittedly, a few of the holiday and celebration bread recipes will require closer to 15 minutes of active prep time, but it’s still the fastest way to make home-baked artisan bread.

Pan De Muerto

Pan De Muerto Courtesy

François says the holidays are “when people really bust out the moves and are willing to put in a little bit more time to do something a little fancier, a little more celebratory.” If the thought of crafting a carb masterpiece makes you nervous, the book has step-by-step photographs that’ll have you braiding challah like a pro in no time.

“I knew as a baker that it’s such a visual thing,” François says. “If people didn’t have pictures, it was going to be very hard for them to follow along.” This bread book is far superior to the authors’ first in that respect; their debut bread book had a mere eight pictures.

The lack of visuals in their first cookbook is what inspired them to start their website, where they answered bakers’ questions, an unusual practice for cookbook authors back in 2003. Their online presence has grown to include cult fave accounts on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube, and the duo has 800,000 books in circulation.

Their community of followers, fans, and fellow bakers is interactive; some ideas for the new bread book came from their experiences of holiday and celebration bread memories. François has even heard from readers who bake the same bread recipe “together,” despite being separated by thousands of miles.

Are you inspired to get up to your elbows in wet dough yet? You should know that homemade bread isn’t just delicious and cost-effective: “It’s great fun,” François says. “There’s nothing like baking bread and having that smell in your house.”