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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 20, 2012
Lori Stewart writes in her introduction to 25 Artisan Bread Recipes : How to Bake Beautiful Sweet and Savory Loaves at Home Without A Bread Machine (The Green Gourmet) "...real artisan bread uses only wild yeast starter, flour, water and salt." Thus I found it rather odd that even the single recipe she gives that contains only water, salt, flour and yeast calls for active dry yeast rather than the wild yeast starter she states is the hallmark of real artisan bread. By her own criteria, none of the recipes in 25 Artisan Bread Recipes are artisan bread. While I did find several good recipes, I also found more than a few that were incorrect along with out-of-date advice and more than a few places where critical information was missing. Things like how warm is warm, how hot is too hot, and how to tell when your bread is doubled are all critical bits of information when it comes to bread baking.

One bit of advice author Lori Jane Stewart imparts says "Always use active yeast. If your yeast isn't bubbling when you mix it, then it is most likely no longer active." That was certainly true in times past, but with the development of more modern strains of yeast like Saf Instant Yeast it is no longer necessary to proof your yeast. (Combine the yeast with part of the water and perhaps some sugar to dissolve and start to bloom.) It also isn't necessary or even necessarily desirable to buy yeast in expensive individual packets and most people who regularly bake bread do not. Luckily those of us who regularly bake bread happen to know that one packet of yeast is a scant tablespoon, an equivalent that does not appear in the book.

One thing that is common to nearly all bread recipes is that the flour measurement is usually given as a range, something like "4-5 cups flour". There is a reason for this. The amount of flour that will absorb a given volume of liquid is quite variable. It depends on the brand of flour, where the wheat was raised, how the flour has been stored on the way to the consumer as well as in the kitchen, how old it is and even the weather - and that can vary from day to day and bag to bag, even of the same brand. Most of the recipes in this book do not provide a flour range and I found more than a few that were at best questionable.

The recipe for Braided Sesame Bread calls for 2 cups of all-purpose flour in the ingredients list in a recipe that contains 3 cups of liquid plus butter and 5 eggs. The directions say "Add 2 cups flour and mix until dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour slowly until dough is stiff." Lori never says how much more flour to add. Most will be very surprised when they are still adding flour more than 4 extra cups later.

There are other problems. The recipe for Unbleached Ciabatta Bread calls for sourdough starter but fails to provide any sort of directions for obtaining one, either purchased or "home caught." (The flour called for in that recipe may also be excessive.) The Candied Hoska recipe specifies scalded milk but does not say how to scald milk and, more importantly, fails to mention that scalded milk must be cooled before using - a critical step. Scalded milk straight from the pan will kill even modern yeasts that are tolerant of higher temperatures. Other significant omissions: how to tell when you've kneaded your bread long enough, the windowpane test and how sticky sticky should be.

Proceed with caution!

UPDATE: Finally, at long last Amazon has issued an updated version notice for this book. Lori has corrected at least some of the problems that I noted above - she gives a list in the comments to this review. I do admire Lori's persistence and I'm going to give her an extra star for it, but I should note in all honesty that some of the problems remain. The new directions for scalding milk are incorrect - you never boil milk - and still don't mention cooling. Sometimes a picture really is worth 1000 words and Lori might have done better to include a picture or a link to a video of the windowpane test. I could go on, but I won't. If you know your way around a dough hook, then there are some interesting bread recipes here. If you are a rank beginner just wanting to learn how to bake bread, this is still probably not the book for you.
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on March 10, 2012
I have always been leary of making bread, but this book is inspiring. I actual made the braided sesame bread and it wasn't that difficult. It was a big hit in my house. I always get Lori's books when they come out and as usual the formatting is very good, the instructions are easy to follow and the recipes are fab.

Tomorrow it is Oatmeal molasses Bread which I am sure will be delicious for a mid morning snack. My daughter in law loves sweet breads and I cannot wait to show of my new learned skill at actually preparing bread. Maybe she will bring my grandchildren around more often.

Buy this book and start impressing your family and friends.
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on March 21, 2012
I have downloaded quite a few of The Green Gourmet books and they never fail to inspire me. I have a breadmaker but I have always wanted to bake some fancy breads from scratch. I have been quite successful with white bread and granary loaves but I wanted to try some different recipes. The garlic artisan bread called to me and it turned out very well. Went down a treat with the kids.

Next up is the artichoke pine nut bread which hopefully will turn out as delicious as it sounds :-)
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on May 1, 2012
First let me stipulate that I have only reviewed one recipe, Honey Oatmeal Bread. This should have been labeled FAUX Honey Oatmeal Bread as the recipe does not call for either honey or oatmeal. I had hoped that this would have been corrected with the "updated" version but no.
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on March 7, 2012
This is a great recipe book to add to your collection if you are a bread lover like me! I absolutely love bread. I have been making different breads as long as I can remember and there are many recipes in this book that I have not seen before. One recipe that really took me back to my childhood is Panettone. My mother always use to bring home a loaf of this during the holidays from work. I can't believe that I never tried to make it myself. Well, that will change now. I am going to following the Panettone recipe in this book and make a loaf for my family this weekend.

Excellent read Lori!
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on December 21, 2012
Who ever tries all the recipes in a cookbook, right? Yesterday I made the Hungarian cinnamon bread and it turned out wonderful. Two of our guests asked for more before I was finished serving. I chopped apple and added it to the filling, which everyone agreed was an excellent addition. We're already talking about when we can make it again.

Update six months after the above: the Hungarian bread has become a go-to recipe when I need a dessert. A couple weeks ago I tried the parmesan & mozzarella focaccia. Everyone loved it. A week later I used it as a recipe for pizza dough and that worked well, too. Note the recipe doesn't mention letting the dough rise at all. I gave it a normal first rise and a little shorter than normal 2nd rise after it was on the pan. Enjoy!
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on March 16, 2012
One of my favorite gifts given to me is homemade bread! There is just nothing like it! My favorite in this wonderful recipe list are the butternut squash bread (being from the South), the buttery white bread (yum) and anything chocolate (Chocolate Cinnamon Babka). Who doesn't want to wake up to Cinnamon Raisin Bread baking? Ahh...download and enjoy! There is nothing like fresh baked bread to make a house have the aroma of HOME.
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on February 18, 2013
I found this book very helpfull with easy to do recipies, a lot of interesting tips and
i would definatley recomend it to everyone who loves to cook because there are loads of fantastic recipies.
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on June 3, 2013
I'm not trying to be harsh with the two star rating. I am an experienced hobby baker and have worked in commercial kitchens as well as a bakery. Based on the title alone i downloaded this book. Many of the key steps in preparing the dough (for someone giving up the machines) are omitted. While a few of the recipes would fit the description of artisan bread many are just basic "retro" breads gleaned from 50's baking books and a few ethnic baking books. Some key elements in the recipes and instructions are missing; one recipe omits the baking temp and another omits the pre-heating aspect of baking bread. While I think these could make great breads, they are lacking the basic information and editing needed to make this a usable and fun book to have.
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on March 16, 2012
Lori has an uncanny knack for making recipes so simple and easy to follow. As a result of this book, I have a whole new appreciation for home-baked bread! If you're a bread lover like me, you must get this book. Yumi is an understatement!
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