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The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking Hardcover – Nov 1 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Stewart, Tabori and Chang (Nov. 1 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158479934X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584799344
  • Product Dimensions: 26.7 x 3.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #157,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

For more than 25 years, the renowned French Culinary Institute at the International Culinary Center in New York City has been teaching the fundamentals of Western cuisine through its hands-on Total Immersion curriculum. With a world-class facility, a distinguished faculty, and a celebrated restaurant, the FCI is among the leading schools of its kind.

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Most helpful customer reviews

By Luigi on Sept. 18 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book! Gave me a whole new appreciation for bread and the skill it takes to make it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 25 reviews
82 of 84 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic teaching reference Feb. 15 2012
By John W. Graham - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I consider myself an avid home baker. I like to bake breads, cakes and other desserts. Recently, I developed a desire to venture beyond the comforts of Brioche, Challah and basic white bread. I wanted to learn exactly what the title suggests: the fundamental techniques of classic bread baking. I also wanted to explore the breads of France, Italy and beyond in greater detail.

Buying this book and using it to teach yourself the FCI way of baking bread means that you will probably need to update some of your kitchen equipment. For me, I ended up buying a better digital scale, a couche, a dough rising bucket, a baker's peel, a better baking stone, some higher quality IDY yeast, and a several types of flour beyond "bleached all purpose" and "bread" flour. I still want to eventually get a pain de mie (pullman) pan, a La Cloche and other specialty baking items.

Armed with new ingredients and baking implements, I read the first several chapters on prep and theory. While I won't be using the Baker's Percentage any time soon in my home baking, this book did its best to introduce the concept (although I like Rose Levy Beranbaum's "dough percentage" concept better). After digesting all of the theory and technique discussions, I was eager to start baking bread. For full disclosure, I have a standard electric oven which goes up to 500F. I also have a 5 quart stand mixer. Aside from that and the basic equipment outlined in this book, I don't have any special commercial grade equipment.

My first gripe with the book is the usage of fresh yeast which is pretty much inaccessible to the average home baker. However, armed with a calculator and loads of conflicting advice, I read my yeast manufacturer's label and made my own "fresh to IDY" conversion multiplier which ended up being fairly close to the recommended conversion factor in this book. My other complaint stems from me being mostly used to volumetric measuring. How many eggs does it take to get 165 grams? Does the measure include the egg shell or is the book referring to the cracked egg? Those types of questions are not answered in this book, and you will have to use trial and error to find your own way. As an Engineer, I do love the precise measurements though.

Right off the bat, I decided to make Ciabatta. I previously attempted to make my own Ciabatta using the Bread Bible book as well as one of the King Arthur recipes. Both of those were "average" - but the Ciabatta I made using the FCI recipe was memorable. The directions are fairly specific and I was able to achieve some large irregular holes in the crumb on the first try. (This requires careful handling) My only complaint with this recipe is the guidance to make 4 loaves - I think two larger loaves might be better! But that's what bread baking is all about - learning the fundamental techniques and improvising.

The next bread I tried was the Brioche - except instead of making it in a brioche pan (or smaller disposable cups), I made it in 9x5 bread pans as demonstrated in the book. The FCI recipe is a bit confusing in that all of the pictures show 2 loaves but the recipe specifies three. I made three loaves, but this would have made fuller and taller loaves with just two pans as the pictures demonstrated. Again, I chalk this up to learning. I think my 325 watt stand mixer almost overloaded on this recipe - it is fairly stiff prior to adding the pounded butter. The result was again memorable. I think my neighbors are starting to appreciate my dabbling in bread making!

Next - I tried the baguette demonstration (the one with the levain). Again, my baguette pan holds three but this recipe makes 4. I made the recipe as specified. My baguettes came out just fine - but an overall theme I am finding is that it is nearly impossible to get the kind of crust I want using an electric oven. Even with the baking stone, I don't feel that the electric oven gets hot enough or maintains a consistent heat level. Using the ice cube steam method, I am also forced to put the steam pan on a rack versus the oven floor. All of these factors conspire against me to make a ho-hum crust. Even so, my neighbors were not complaining about me showing up with freshly baked baguettes.

Now that I have some semolina and durum flour, I am interested in trying some of the semolina based demonstrations. My wife wants me to make the fougasse aux olives next, but she is also reconsidering my newly acquired love of bread baking due to the enormous amount of time I am spending in the kitchen (plus the money spent on supplies)!

In summary, I am happy with this book. The photographs are generous and useful in most cases. I still turn to my other books for bits of missing guidance from time to time (example: I find some of the shaping instructions difficult to follow), but this does seem to be a fairly complete reference and teaching aid. My only gripe with this book is that it is rather impersonal. There are no words of encouragement and no warnings that might pertain to the average home baker. Just instruction. (Example: something like "the dough will be very wet at this point" would help the novice baker.)

My goal is to bake every bread in this book at least once, and I feel that doing so will definitely make me a better baker. I again warn the casual bread baker that buying this book will put you into more of an "in for a penny in for a pound" type will definitely start buying all sorts of ingredients, pans and baking instruments once you get this book. I really look forward to finishing the course outlined in this book!

2/21/12 update: I made Pane Siciliano Semolina this weekend - aside from a slightly cracked crust and the color not being as deep and vivid as the FCI photo - it came out really nice. The taste was fabulous. I'll definitely be making that bread again!
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A Practical Collection April 9 2012
By Eugen - Published on
Format: Hardcover
After having taken a number of baking courses at Le Cordon Bleu it was wonderful to find this book which provided much of the same information gained from Le Cordon Bleu's bread baking courses but in a beautiful book. The book is actually the book used by the FCI and when reading it you see that it is indeed more textbook than typical cookbook, but that's just what I was looking for. I have many bread and pastry books but wanted something the provided an excellent collection of the practical aspects of bread making. I was relying on my notes from Le Cordon Bleu but my handwriting has only regressed courtesy of using a keyboard most days. So being able to verify a specific comment I left to myself by reviewing the practical aspects of a given type of bread has been most welcome.

I'd recommend this for anyone who's taken a course in the past and wants a more pleasant way to remember what they've been taught or as a great addition to the bread maker wanting to have the knowledge of FCI at their fingertips. The fact the course from FCI aligns so well with the ones I've taken at Le Cordon Bleu is a most welcome bonus.
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
A true bread textbook April 12 2012
By Joanne - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a hefty book complete with a stitched-in satin bookmark, like the family bible has. This is the kind of book this is, massive and impressive for sure, but the pages read like a textbook b/c it is--if you read the full description of this book, it is meant for the culinary student sitting in class and turning pages in tandem w/the professor up front. That cuts both ways. A lot of info here, yes, but perhaps in a dry way that is too big on clinical and short on inspirational. In short, this book is made for the "student" of bread, not the home baker who wants ample info without feeling deluged w/every minute detail of information that makes it more like work than play. In that respect, the book doesn't pull you in, it tends to feel unapproachable and boring. THe words on the page are small and cluttered and hard to read, against textbook'ish.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A great cookbook May 29 2012
By Guillaume Slama - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In our restaurant, we knead and bake our bread ourselves. This book has helped us understand many technical aspects of the process, and has helped us create a better product. It is well illustrated and very well explained. A serious book for serious bakers.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This book is super! March 27 2013
By Sean - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is not for everyone. If you are a serious home baker than you can use this book. There is plenty of knowledge in the book besides the recipes. Do not worry if you do not have everything listed. If you do not have fresh yeast they give you the conversion for other types. Bread will cook on any pan so if you do not have every special pan they call for you can still make most of these breads.

I have spent over 10 years making recipes from the King Arthur cookbooks. I was not surprised by anything I saw in this book. I love the fact that it is a classroom type of book. It is loaded with anything you need to know about cream, butter, eggs, flours, etc. There are some easy recipes to start with. King Arthur all-purpose flour will work just fine for starting out if you can not find the bread flour. You will need a scale and good flour.

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