Thursday, November 12, 2009

Artisan Breads Every Day - literally!

I haven't been around here very much recently. Really I've hardly been on the computer. But I have been baking...and baking...and more baking!

Several of you have asked about the bread book that I helped to test recipes. It finally came out and I received my copy last week. Wow! Even though I've seen most of these recipes, the final result is even better then I expected! The cookbook is Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. Like his other books, this one shares Peter's passion for helping ordinary home bakers make extraordinary bread.

I am so excited about seeing the final edition of these recipes, plus all the great photos that I've been baking bread nearly every day! To be honest, I think I'm slightly obsessed! Meals have turned into a simple soup and fresh bread almost every night. Extra loaves have been pushed into the freezer or shared with friends. But if I am going overboard, at least I haven't heard a murmur of complaint from my husband!

During the recipe testing for this book (which by the way, was completely unpaid volunteer position, but the chance to interact with a great baker and teacher was totally worth it!) I tried most of the recipe for this book. Our favorites were the many seed bread, rustic pain a l'Ancienne, and crackers. I didn't have even one flop, which I don't think I can say for any other of my bread cookbooks. Even the sourdough recipe worked! And I had tried making a sourdough starter at least two other times with no success!

I did not test most of the rich bread recipes, including the babka, panettone, or croissants. I was planning to get to those recipes while I waited for our baby's birth, but she came a week early, and my recipe testing ended abruptly! To be honest those recipes intimidated me but after seeing the photos in the book, I'm excited about trying them.

The photos above show the first recipe in the book, 'Lean Bread'. A classic french bread type recipe that demonstrates the sub-title "Fast and Easy Recipes for World-Class Breads". The clear directions and photos really do make these recipes "easy" but the "fast" part could be contested. Don't expect to pull out your flour and yeast and be eating bread in an hour. Peter follows the flavor rule ("flavor rules") and almost all of these recipe use a slow, cold overnight fermentation to develop the flavor. The dough is mixed, usually without kneading, sat in the fridge, and baked the next day. Though there is not a lot of hands on time, this also isn't fast food! And I think that is a good thing!

Though there is numerous whole wheat recipes in the book including several 100% whole wheat breads and pizza crust, I added whole wheat flour even to the white flour recipes. For example, in the lean bread, I used 1 cup of whole wheat flour and decreased the overall flour by 1/3 cup. The result was excellent!

Actually there isn't a recipe that I don't want to try. So I'm just starting at the beginning of the book and working my way through it one recipe at a time! Maybe I'll post photos and comments on each of the recipes, as time allows. But for taste tests, you'll have to stop in - or purchase your own book! (Just so you know, I'm not being paid to endorse this book! I just really like it! If you do purchase a book through an Amazon link, I do receive a tiny referral fee.)

Actually there is quite a few new bread books out. If you are looking for a gift for a bread baker, you have lots of options this fall. On my list to look up at the library is "My Bread" by Jim Lahey (creator of the so-called NY Times No-Knead Bread) and "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

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