3.23.2011

Book Review: The Bread Baker's Apprentice

This was the first cookbook I owned. I think it speaks to my preferences in culinary creations. Because I live in a dorm, and the kitchen is so far away from my room, I prefer baking. When I bake, I mix the batters and the doughs in my room and ferry them to the kitchen all ready to go. It's very rare that I forget something important since usually all I have to bring is a baking vessel and my batter.

Unfortunately for me, I don't have the metabolism of an 18-year-old male. I can't eat a whole pan of brownies and not suffer dire consequences. At some point, I realized I had to stop baking dessert and start baking more wholesome and more savory goods. My sister had recently made bagels, so I gave it a go.

Cinnamon swirl bread, and a glass of milk sitting on BBA.
Now, I don't recommend that anybody start with bagels. However, if you think yeast is scary, making bagels will flush that right out of your system--the shaping, boiling, topping and flipping are all a lot more intimidating than throwing some yeast in with your flour.

After Tastespotting bread recipes for a while, I read about the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, to bake through Peter Reinhardt's entire book in order, and blog about each recipe. No big deal, I thought to myself. I can do that. So I bought it. And I read the first section on the hows and the whats of bread making. And I made the first recipe--Anadama bread.

That's when I realized that most of his recipes are measure in days, not hours or minutes, from start to finish. Don't get me wrong, the Anadama bread, which smelled awfully of molasses for hours on end, was some of the most interesting, delicate and flavorful bread I'd ever had (let alone made). It just took hours on end to make.

I've made a few of his recipes so far, including his bagels and his cinnamon bread. They're very good, but they're not great, and they're a lot of work. Most of them I would probably make again, but that's mostly because I find it convenient to be able to leave my bread rising in the refrigerator overnight and pick up making it the next day. Like Alice Medrich's cookie book, though, this is not for when you want bread for dinner tonight.

Big chewy flavorful bagels.
The highlights;
- Lots of information! The first 80 pages are dedicated to teaching you about bread and yeast and flour, instead of telling you how to make it
- Wonderful stories, tips and tricks introducing each recipe
- Delicious, technically sound recipes that produce delicious, technically sound bread
- The book itself is really pretty if you take off the silly paper flap that comes on it

The verdict:
If you really, and I mean really, like baking bread (and preferably have your own kitchen where your experiments can sit overnight), this is a great book. If you fall in that category, though, you probably already own this book. If you are an occasional bread baker, or have any major constraints on your time, get this one from the library. The information contained in the first half of the book is more valuable than any of the recipes (except the bagel recipe! write that one down!)


What's your favorite kind of bread? Do you make it yourself? Leave me a comment and let me know!

1 comment:

  1. I like sweet breads, ones with cinnamon, or fruit. Darn that sweet tooth.

    ReplyDelete

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