Currently reading: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
Ever since I first started learning to cook, I’ve been hearing about this book:
Everywhere, anywhere, people are talking about baking bread at home, they’re raving about it. So I finally caved in over the holidays, picked it up, and I’m glad I did.
This would be pretty intimidating for beginning bakers, so I don’t recommend it as a “first book” of bread baking (I’m still gonna have to go with this one for beginners!). At the same time, though, it’s not so esoteric that anybody who doesn’t have tons of money, time, equipment and space for baking can’t get something out of it.
It’s relatively light on actual recipes, but is filled with great material: a long, but very readable discourse on artisanal bread baking in the first part, and several varied recipes (with full explanations, photos, formulas and ratios) in the second part. I can see why Peter Reinhart’s books are so popular: he combines good writing with good explanations, two things which rarely come into contact. (Kenji excepted, obviously.)
Warning: while reading this, you will develop intense cravings for freshly-baked artisan bread, so I recommend you have some source of good bread into which you can dive, face-first, while you’re waiting for your own attempt to finish — which will be a while, because the key technique that Reinhart uses is a super-long rest period, often overnight. (In that sense, it’s not different from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.)
I ended up going to Panera Bread, since I can’t find any local sources of artisan bread near me, and got a ciabatta for about $3, but I was very disappointed: it’s scarcely different from the “Italian loaf” I can get at the grocery store bakery for a dollar. I have had good luck with Panera’s loaves in the past (I remember the honey wheat and the sourdough being good), but I won’t buy the ciabatta again. Of course, if I’m lucky, I can use this book to start making my own!