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Whole Grain Bread with a Twist
on February 11, 2008
I have been baking bread for many years. I also like to read about bread baking practice and theory, so when Peter Reinhart published his new book, I was eager to try it.
On the positive side, I like the fact that the recipes focus on whole grains. The photographs are done well throughout the book. I also applaud Reinhart for thinking out of the box, trying new techniques.
Essentially, Reinhart's technique is to prepare two mixes the day before: a sourdough starter or biga, and a soaker or mash. This advance preparation coaxes out the flavors in a relaxed way, so that the following day, you combine both parts to flour, salt, and yeast, and then proceed with traditional timing. Reinhart refers to this amalgamation as epoxy glue, an unfortunate image.
Because the purpose of this book is to promote whole grains, I find it counterproductive that practically every recipe includes quite a bit of sugar, brown sugar, honey, or agave nectar. The complex, tantalizing taste of a freshly made whole grain bread should be plenty reward for most.
Reinhart explains in great detail the attributes and construction of using a soaker and a mash. However, out of a total of 55 bread recipes, only 4 recipes utilize the mash.
Some of the recipe quantities are curious: 1/2 cup plu 2 TB water or 5/8 tsp salt. Bread baking is not an exact science because so much depends on variables, such as type and age of flour, humidity, etc.
I am hesitant about recommending this book. If you are a first-time bread baker, you will find the techniques advanced. And, unless you like to read about bread, you may find reading the very long personal narrative gratuitous. Finally, baking hints, rather than organized by topic, are placed sporadically throughout the text.
In sum, Whole Grain Bread: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor is a good concept, but, for me, at least, I found redundant recipes with ordinary editing.