This treasure is part of the "At Home" series from the Culinary Institute of America. If you like to cook and want to bake a variety of fine breads and pastries, this is the resource for you. The book is carefully laid out so home cooks (like me) can get started with basic breads and rolls with lean and then enriched dough. We are taught how basic dough can be used, adapted and transformed for a variety of baked goods.
Before we get baking though, the authors, Eric Kastel and Cathy Charles, explain to us what Artisan Bread means, the ingredients we will be using, the basic terminology, and the kinds of equipment we will need to have the best chances for success. I love their encouragement to learn by doing and to not be discouraged if things don't work out at first. As the book notes, dough is a living thing and only experience will teach the baker how to understand what is happening to the dough and how to handle it properly to get the kind of bread we want under varying conditions.
We then get a VERY helpful chapter on the basics of bread baking. We are shown how to weigh ingredients, mix them, ferment (proof) them, fold them, divide the dough, pre-shape the bread, what bench rest is about, final shaping, how to do things like add seeds to the outside of the bread or wash it with egg, final fermentation, scoring the bread, baking the bread, cooling it and then the technique for slicing it. We also are giving instructions on how to best store the bread we have spent so much effort to make. Of course, if your house is like mine, fresh bread is devoured before it gets much of a chance to get old. One pages 4 & 5 he discusses using malted barely, but he states the properties of diastatic and non-diastatic malted barley exactly the opposite of what those who sell it say. So, I go with those who sell it. Diastatic has the enzyme and non-diastatic does not. This should be corrected in subsequent printings.
With the lean dough you will be able to make things like Hoagie and Kaiser Rolls, Whole Wheat Bread, Oatmeal Bread, Durum & Rosemary Rolls, Durum, Rosemary & Lemon Rolls, Multigrain Bread, and Rustic Rye Bread. I love the way the quantities for each recipe are given in ounces, grams, volume and the bakers % (which I still have to learn how to read).
And the photographs! Wow. The pictures of the finished items make us want to make the recipes so we can eat these delicious things. The pictures providing instruction on how to fashion the loaves, rolls, and how things should look at various stages of the process are very clear and most helpful. These photos are examples of masterful photography that contributes to our understanding of the text rather than merely decorating it.
Enriched dough yields soft rolls, white bread, whole wheat pan bread, cheddar-onion rye rolls, ham & provolone loaves, corn rolls, herb-pepper & cheese buns, soft multigrain rolls, cottage dill rolls, cinnamon-raisin swirl bread, cinnamon rolls and sticky buns, almond coffee cake, almond filling, almond twists, cream cheese & pecan coffee cake, cream cheese & apple walnut coffee cake, sunflower seed bread, caraway rye bread, and hamburger buns!
We then get a chapter on the techniques required for advanced bread making. Here you will learn about things such as specialized fermentation techniques and handling sours for those flavorful sourdough breads.
The chapter on flatbreads includes things like crackers with sun-dried tomato and Asiago cheese, Grissini, Lavash, Partha, Naan, pizza dough, pita bread, English muffins, and tortillas.
A chapter on advanced breads with preferments (leavening techniques using less yeast) includes Peasant Bread, Sesame and Asiago Wheat Bread, Semolina Bread, Pecan Raisin Bread, Apple-Cinnamon Epi, Bagels (including how to make a smooth ring!), Bialys, and Baguette with Poolish (and other preferments), Ciabatta, Pretzels, German Rye, onion breads, Focaccia, Beer Bread, and bread for Muffalettas, various kinds of onion, olive, and fruit breads, Sourdough, and other breads including sours,
There is also a chapter on breads using enriched doughs, that is heavy in sugar and fat. Think Holiday and special occasion breads. Hot Cross Buns, Gibassier, Gugelhopf, Challah, Brioche, Craquelin, Conchas, Day of the Dead Bread (pan de muerto), Chocolate & Pecan Babka, Panettone, Almond Stollen, Orahnjacha, and Utopljenici.
There is also a section on sauces and dips for the breads and an appendix and braiding and knotting that is very detailed and reminded me of my days in Boy Scouts learning to tie knots. The authors also provide a page of other readings and resources we aspiring cooks can use and a list of places to buy bread ingredients, bakeware, baking stones, cutting surfaces, and so forth.
A magnificent achievement and a wonderful help for people like me who want to expand our cooking horizons, make better breads and eat them, and wow our family and friends.
If you are in that group, I strongly recommend this book for you.
Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI