Besides reading and writing, baking is my passion. In my book, you haven’t really mastered baking until you’ve mastered bread. It’s a simple staple, and yet iconic. Nothing else in the world calls up quite so many warm feelings, does it?
Of course, it’s not entirely fair to say you can only master baking after you’ve mastered bread, since there are so many types of bread. Over the years, I’ve gotten better and better at making bread — but coming across The Bread Baker’s Apprentice was another turning point.
In addition to recipes and step-by-step process pictures, the book, written by Peter Reinhart (a leader in the artisan bread movement) includes very important tips that typical home bakers might not come across. For instance, I’ve read hundreds of bread recipes and baked dozens, and not until this book had it been pointed out to me that the surface tension of the loaf is important. Ever since taking in this fact, it seems obvious–but still, many of my loaves in the past have suffered from a lack of surface tension.
The recipes in this book range wildly, and it’s completely appropriate for novice or expert bread bakers. I definitely wish I had been in possession of this when I started making bread.
Reinhart includes descriptions of the distinctions of different loaves, instructions on how to contort bread dough into different shapes, fascinating anecdotes as to how he learned these recipes and techniques, and in-depth insights for each of the 12 stages of baking bread. I love the insight and history given for each type of bread–for instance, the varying butter ratios in brioche recipes.
A note on edition: Reinhart reiterates that he is constantly honing and improving these recipes as he goes along. To my understanding, most of the recipes (or formulas, as he calls them) remain the same. Still, I would recommend getting this latest 15th anniversary edition if you want the most up-to-date recipes with any recent tweaks and changes he has made.
This is not a book to miss if you’re looking for an extremely well-rounded book on bread. Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice belongs on the cookbook shelves of every home.
**I was provided a copy of this book by the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.