Customer Reviews: Amy's Bread, Revised and Updated: Artisan-style breads, sandwiches, pizzas, and more from New York City's favorite bakery
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on February 18, 2010
I have a very large collection of bread-baking books, and my favorite book has long been the original "Amy's Bread" book (long out-of-print). When I had heard that a revised edition is coming out, I was ecstatic! Finally, new bakers will get to experience Amy's amazing breads. This book is a complete revision of the previous book, and I highly recommend getting it, whether or not you own the previous "Amy's Bread" book.

The style of this book is similar to the style of Amy's other book, "The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread". The photographs by Aimee Herring are amazing. She is a talented photographer, making all of the breads look scrumptious. There are photographs of almost all products in the book. Additionally, there are photos of some shaping steps and also photographs of the bakery. The book is beautifully stylized; it is a joy to look at and to read from. In addition to the recipes and explanations, the book is studded with various stories of life at the bakery.

The recipes all have metric, imperial, and US measurements. This is such a huge plus! I find baking by metric weights far easier than every other method, and it is easy with this book. The other measurements are provided for those who find them more convenient. The recipes are all very clearly written. They are detailed and precise. Almost each recipe is accompanied by tips: ways to enhance the bread's flavor, flour suggestions, etc. Also, every recipe has a headnote explaining a bit about its origin.

The book begins with a detailed guide for bread baking, and also a clear and detailed sourdough section. I have used the method described in the book for making sourdough, and it does work. Then, there is a chapter about easy breads to get you started, containing some amazing and easy breads. Then there are other sections: whole-wheat breads, Rye breads, sourdough breads, semolina breads, sweet breads, etc. There is also a chapter on pizzas and flatbreads, and a chapter on sandwiches.

So far I have baked the whole-wheat bread with toasted walnuts and the whole-wheat bread with oats and pecans. Both were outstanding. The former has been my top bread for quite some time. I have tasted it at the bakery itself, and have since made it several times. It is just delicious. The second bread I made and brought to work. My colleagues finished the loaf within minutes. As one of my colleagues had said: "There is a serious problem with this bread; you cannot stop at just one slice." Now that the sourdough I had made (based on the method described in the book) is ripe, I have a batch of "Toy's Teddy Bread" proofing.

Finally, a quick comparison with the previous book: 9 recipes from the previous book do not appear in this book. Sadly, one of my favorites (Grainy Whole-Wheat and Seeds with Apricots, Prunes, and Raisins) has been omitted. These were replaced with 9 different recipes, including Amy's Brioche, The Picholine Olive Bread, and the Oragnic Miche, to name a few. Many of the recipes that appeared in the previous book were updated, so the recipes are a bit different. Some changes are quite small (the chocolate rolls now have dried cherries in them instead of peanut chips), others are quite large (different preferments, different hydrations, etc.).

All in all, if you had to select just one bread baking book, this is the one I recommend!
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on May 24, 2010
I have made several recipes from this book and so far been very pleased. The two recipes offered as part of the book description, for example, are both excellent. But that said, the recipes are not that user friendly. Almost an extreme over reaction to the "5 minute a day" approach.

But there are a couple of things worth mentioning that make the book a little difficult.
1. Most of the recipes in this book involve a lot of water, a stunning amount. For example, one whole wheat recipe that Harold McGee covered in the New York Times uses 18 oz of water to 19.5 oz of flour. That is a 92% water to flour ratio, a stunningly high amount and well over the ranges provided by virtually every other reputable bread book. I have made this recipe from the book. It is a boule and with so much water plus whole wheat, it is difficult for the bread to rise much.

The white bread recipe in the Amazon description has an 85% water/flour ratio. But it is white flour and a pan loaf and I can say it tastes extraordinary. It has a great crust and crumb.

2. Long, very long total rising time. Most of us are used to a couple of rises, perhaps a sponge or other preferment, etc. This book uses lots of rising cycles. Again, the white bread in the description is typical. It requires 3 separate 1 to 1.5 hour rising cycles before baking. I suggest you carefully read through the recipe times before diving in. The book doesn't give a total start to finish time for its recipes and given the many risings required, it can be quite an investment of time.

3. Hand mixing. It is odd to me that given the emphasis on very wet doughs, that the book recommends hand mixing. I enjoy bread making but I am not going to waste time hand kneading a dough with a consistency of thick batter. Use your mixer and save yourself the frustration and mess.

In summary. I like the book. The recipes have so far been good. But be cautious of the extremely high level of water. They make an extremely wet dough that is very hard to work with. Use your mixer and plan out a long day for making any of the breads.

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on April 3, 2010
Amy's Bread turned up when I was searching for recipes for sourdough. My first batch just came out of the oven, and it is heavenly. I made the Tangy 24-Hour Sourdough because of a sourdough craving I've been having. Note that this is clearly indicated to be one of the more invovled recipes and not for beginners. It is a long process, especially the first time when you have to make the starter. Ignoring Amy's suggestions that beginners start with easier recipes, I decided to dive right in and make the sourdough. The instructions are excellent, and my loaves of sourdough came out golden brown, crispy on the outside and soft as can be on the inside. They are even better than I imagined, especially for my first time baking bread.

I recommend getting a sourdough starter (like King Arthur Flour's) and then building up Amy's White Sourdough Starter, Rye Sourdough Starter, and Rye Salt Sour Starter from there. You'll need to get a good stock of ingredients that you may not have, as Amy recommends organic flours, such as organic rye, that you may not be able to find in your local grocery. I also needed to purchase some crocks to store the starters in the refrigerator.

My Tangy 24-Hour Sourdough process actually took about a week from when I received a sourdough starter from KAF. The time was needed to build up the proper starters, and then to feed them and make sure they were active before baking. I was skeptical and didn't think bread I made at home would satisfy my craving for San Francisco sourdough, but I have been totally floored by the bread I just tasted.
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on December 11, 2012
I am a huge fan of Amy's Bread in New York City. They make some of the best bread I've tasted. I have owned their cookbook for the past 2 years and have made many delicious breads from the book. I can honestly say that it is my favorite bread book that I own. The results have been exceptional.

HOWEVER, I do have some issues with the book as a whole. Considering the fact that this is a "Revised and Updated" version of their previous book, one would expect it to be as close to perfect as possible. I have found many editorial problems with the book. The Brioche recipe says it doesn't require a starter in the heading, but then goes on to include one in the list of ingredients.

In the Techniques section of the book, it states that the recipes were tested on old NYC gas ovens and that with newer ovens the temperatures may be too hot, and that you should lower the temperature by 10 degrees. In testing a cookbook, wouldn't it be best to test them on newer ovens rather than offering this tip somewhere in the book where no one would probably even find it?

In the back of the book, it discusses different bread shapes. For the Knot shape, it ends with a "See photograph in color insert," but there is no photograph in the color insert for that shape. Was there one in the previous version of the book? Why didn't they include it in this book, and if not, then why not remove that statement?

The Rustic Italian Bread calls for 454 grams/16 oz/1 7/8 cups of Poolish, but when you look at the Poolish recipe, it says that 454 grams/16 oz equals 2 1/4 cups in volume. Which one is right? In general I'd stick with gram measurements for everything. But then yeast measurements in the book are ALWAYS given only in volume measurements. There are no gram or ounce conversions. Why?

Furthermore, the instructions for some of the recipes can sometimes be repetitive or unclear, as if recipes were copied and pasted but not properly revised before printing. For example, here is an excerpt from the Autumn Pumpkin Bread with Pecans recipe:

"Place the loaves on a peel or the back of a baking sheet that is been lined with parchment and sprinkled generously with cornmeal. Leave several inches between them so they won't grown into each other.

Generously dust a peel or the bottom of a baking sheet with flour or coarse cornmeal. Carefully place the shaped loaves on the peel or sheet, leaving several inches between them so they won't grow into each other as they rise."

Is that not the exact same information written twice in the recipe, literally one after another? See, I'm angry because I believe this is a really wonderful cookbook, but I can't believe that in revising the book there seems to be SO much that was overlooked. It was as if someone just didn't take their job seriously enough to ensure the book was perfect. There are many flaws such as this in the book.

Fortunately, for the most part these flaws should not really affect the outcome of your bread (at least if you are measuring in weight versus volume). I have had fantastic results as a whole, but I also have managed to navigate these issues really well. I wish the editors of the book would take note of these problems and correct them in the future. My copy of the book is a couple years old, so I can't say if any of these were corrected in later printings of the book, but it's something to be aware of, nonetheless!
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on September 29, 2010
This book is very attracctive, and the breads are thoughtful and creative. Having said that, I would not recommend this book for the average, or even the experienced, home bread baker. I am experienced at making bread, and I am not intimidated by complex formulas or time-consuming procedures. But, as others have pointed out, many of these breads require a remarkable amount of water, and the resulting doughs are very difficult to work with. I understand that using lots of water is required to get true artisan bread, and I like wet dough. But these go to the extreme. While that might work in a professional setting with sophisticated equipment, it's not realistic at home. And to make matters worse, the book makes no mention of the gooey, batter-like doughs you often get. In fact, the instructions cheerfully tell you to kneed by hand - a near impossibility. I have no doubt that the author - a well-recognized and successful baker - knows a lot more about bread baking than I do. But with just a few exceptions (noted by other reviews), this book is not a realistic or helpful guide to baking artisan bread at home.
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on February 15, 2015
Fantastic must have addition to your bread cookbook list. I was a bit skeptical of all the super positive reviews but I have to say after working through a bunch of recipes I'm a believer. The use of active yeast threw me as I've always used instant, but the results have been fantastic. The white bread recipe produced a gigantic delicious loaf. The doughs run on the very wet side but the instructions for handling are meticulous. I've been using the Italian rustic recipe to make the best "baguettes" ever. Just cut the flattened proofed rectangles into strips without further shaping then into oven for steaming. I do significantly increase the salt to 23grams. Looking forward to working through the rest of the book.
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on November 11, 2011
I have made the oat bread, maple fig bread, and tuna salad. I substituted chia eggs for the eggs in the fig bread recipe and used barley flour instead of the two white flours. The bread was very moist and disappeared in two days. I'm a bit afraid to make it again since it was so yummy! Tuna salad was very good as was the oat bread. Enjoyable to read if you like reading cookbooks.
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on May 24, 2012
Ditto as to the other reviewers as to the pros and cons about this book--the 3 to 5 star reviews. I recently added this book to my large library of bread books.

After reading the inroductory section, which was excellent, I decided to try the french baguette. Since some of the ingredients were not in my kitchen I had to purchase them ie the absorbic acid. Yes the dough was wet. I decided to use my bread machine for the knead. However, when it came to the final shaping I did not find the dough difficult to work with. I placed the shaped dough in a couch for the final rise and then slid them onto my Chicago Metallic Baguette pan. The results were excellent and I was very happy with the results on the first try as my baguette had nice big holes in the interior and a somewhat rustic crust, not completely smooth.

This book is excellent as it provides several measurements for each recipe, so the book can be universal to those not using the US type measurements ie cup, teaspoon, etc...

Reading through several of the recipes I found the instructions clear and concise and enjoyed reading the notes for the recipes.

This book offers a wide range of breads, from straight dough, sourdough to whole wheat breads, in addition to other recipes.

I find this book a nice addition to my bread baking library.

As I go through the book I will update my review.
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on August 5, 2015
This is so much more than a cookbook! This book launched me into artisan bread baking, and has kept me there for over 5 years now. The front of the book includes explanations, definitions, tips, different protein contents of flours, different starters, ideal room temperatures, equipment, etc., and is well worth the read before attempting any of the recipes. The authors really teach the cook all about baking bread rather than simply provide a list of recipes. Each recipe includes detailed step by step procedures, and, if you follow them, you will turn out beautiful, artisan creations!
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on March 18, 2011
I first came across Amy's Bread in a food magazine sometime in the 90's. The title of the article was something like "Today is a Bread Baking Day." I kept the article, and, every Christmas season, I'd make her Rosemary and Olive oil bread. It is just wonderful. Then during our last move, the article got lost, so I hunted for a replacement, and found the original edition of this book. Yes, the recipes require time. (And forethought: Most require a starter.) Yes, they require a lot of water, but she talks about this in the book. And yes, you really need to pay attention to the steps.

And, yes, some of the recipes are just not workable in a home kitchen. I consider myself a decent baker, but have never baked a truly satisfactory wheat loaf from Amy's recipe. But I've found this book to be both inspiring and educational. I read as avidly the suggestions on keeping bread as I have the recipes.

I've gotten heavily involved in my career since I found that first article, so I don't spend as much time in the kitchen as I once did, but every so often I need a bread-baking day, and this book is the first one off the shelf.

Note: Book number two is Nathalie Dupree's Great Meals for Busy Days with a wonderful sour cream and chive bread that can be adapted to a bread machine.
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