Zoë François needs 10 more minutes of your time.
After 12 years and six editions of the hugely popular “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” series, her collaborator, fellow Minneapolitan Jeff Hertzberg, gave her the green light to indulge her pastry chef side in “Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day” (St. Martin’s Press, $35).
The concept is the same: A big batch of chilled dough enables bread-making on a daily basis. But, she added with a laugh, the chapter about Danish and croissants “should have been called ‘15 minutes a day.’ ”
She recently talked about her popular Instagram account, favorite baking tool and predilection for plaid shirts.
Q: Given the pastry vibe in this new book, this seems like a pet project for you. How did it come about?
A: Sweet breads are something Jeff and I have always included in our books, but we’ve always had a back and forth about just how much butter I can squeeze into a bread and still have his name on it, being he’s a doctor. There have always been compromises, but this one, he was like, ‘Go for it.’ ”
This was very much in my wheelhouse and all the things I’m passionate about. It’s still the same method. But some of these, because of all the eggs and butter, don’t store quite as long as our other breads.
Q: You have a chapter with recipes you call “Danish-ish” or “croissant-esque,” so you’re upfront about these being tweaked renditions of the classics. How did you find that sweet spot between success and accessibility?
A: When we wrote our first book, some people requested that we do laminated dough [a process of layering dough and butter]. But we were really driving the five-minutes-a-day thing. Because we were looking at people not being experienced bakers, introducing laminated bread at this point didn’t seem right. It never fit into any of the other books, either, but I had sort of been working on this all the time — although that chapter should have been called 15-minutes-a-day. Still, I got the process to be less intimidating, quick, and the results are pretty amazing.
Q: Over the 12 years since your first book, is there a sense you’ve spurred nonbakers to become avid bakers, that bread-in-5 was a sort of a gateway drug in home kitchens?
A: That was exactly how we looked at it. We wanted to get people hooked this way, then people got into the traditional ways of baking, and then sourdough took off. We didn’t expect ours to be the end-all book, but a beginning.
Q: Your blog, zoebakes, is stunning and more than 96,000 people follow your Instagram account: @zoebakes. How has social media changed how you spend your time?
A: Oh, so much. When I do videos, I might get 200 to 300 responses, which is why I put so much detail into them so people don’t ask me questions — because I do feel obligated to answer. I mean, I put this recipe out there and want them to have success. My son showed me how to look at analytics on Instagram. One day I spent 10 hours on it and I don’t even think that was an exception. Luckily, I love it, but I think I may need to move over to YouTube where there’s more space for videos.
Q: Is there a common question among home bakers’ responses?
A: It’s actually more about emotional support than it is technical. I’d taught classes for 20 years so I think I’m getting better at describing and showing each step and anticipating where people are going to have issues. People come into baking intimidated and they think it’s so absolute and so scientific that they don’t have room to move. So part of the vibe is trying to get across that it’s a lot of fun.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: It can range. I’ll go to the Wedge Co-op and the seasonal produce will be exciting. There was a crazy selection of pumpkins and winter squash, and I realized I didn’t know what the difference was. So I just roasted eight different kinds, puréeing them all as if I was baking a pie, and there was a huge range of difference. Some were sort of fibrous and watery. Others were almost chalky, they were so dry. My favorite squashes were butternut and Red Kuri.
Q: With so many blogs and sites and Instagram accounts, how do you discern good recipes?
A: It’s a challenge. Visually, I like the eye candy. But sometimes people are duped by these gorgeous results and if the recipe itself isn’t done well, it doesn’t matter how good it looks. Maybe it’s written in such a way that people are going to have a hard time with a technique, that the creator is taking for granted what people know. You have to trust the website. That’s why I like doing videos. I’m such a visual learner, so I think everyone else is, too.
Q: Will we ever be able to buy a “Zoe’s Pastries” cookbook?
A: I hope so! That’s definitely the thing that I’m most excited about next. There are so many books. I think, ‘What do I have to add?’ But I’ve sort of jelled what I want to do and know there’s space for a professional pastry chef to share all the tricks and things that I’ve picked up over the years working with incredible chefs and bring it to home bakers.
The other day, I posted a recipe for apple crisp and within three hours, people were posting photos of the crisp that they’d baked. I was like, ‘How did you physically pull that off?’
Q: Will there be another bread-in-5 book?
A: We’ve been saying ever since the third one that we’re probably done. And lo and behold, here we are with number seven. So who knows?
Q: What ingredient or tool excites you these days?
A: I would have to say for bread it’s a Danish dough whisk. It’s so cool looking and efficient. I mean, I couldn’t live without my KitchenAid, but this is such a simple tool and only like $8 or $9. I travel with it.
Q: You often seem to be wearing a plaid shirt. Is that deliberate?
A: Oh! I don’t think so. Although maybe it is, because I see all these photos and that’s what I’m often wearing. It’s funny, I’m going to Portland, Oregon, tomorrow — home of the plaid shirt — and the first thing I packed was a plaid shirt and I thought: Is this a little too much?
Kim Ode, a former Star Tribune reporter, is a freelance writer and baker from Edina. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.