I bought this book after carefully researching it, trying to decide if it would be a book I would use or a book that would sit on my shelf and collect dust. The recipes in this book look more time-consuming than those found in my other bread books, and I finally decided that, based on other reviews of this book, it was worth a shot.
Almost all of the recipes in this book require more than one day to make; the author bases a great many of his recipes on some form of starter, whether it's a stiff dough or a liquid sourdough starter. He asserts that this style of baking brings out the most flavor in the flour. He's right. The recipes I have tried [so far] in this book do indeed have a better and stronger flavor, in spite if the fact that the base ingredients are the same as that of other recipes in other books.
The author does more than provide a bunch of good recipes (he refers to them as "formulas"). He describes the chemistry behind the ingredients and how they react to one another when mixed. He also shows, with photographs, many different shaping methods and intermediate steps that are required in making bread dough.
The author writes the techniques and recipes in this book like a man who has a deep interest in the subject, not just a desire to crank out another cookbook. He demonstrates, through his discussion in the book, his deep understanding of the art of breadmaking. For this man, bread making is a joy and a pleasure, not just a profession. When reading this book, the reader gets pulled along into the excitement the author has for his topic, which makes the process of breadmaking even more pleasurable.
This book is not for the lazy baker. If you want to make breads that are fast and easy, look for other titles. But if you want outstanding breads, and you're willing to work for it and be patient, then this book is a superb choice.
on December 4, 2001
This is an expensive book worth every penny. Reinhart will show you how to bake bread even if you've never baked anything that didn't come out of a can and if you are an experienced baker, Reinhart will strengthen your understanding of how bread is made.
His explanation of the science of how bread is mixed, baked and even tasted is definitive and clearly written. The section on shaping dough is aptly photographed and understandable. It is, by far, the clearest description of shaping dough found in the current crop of baking books.
The bulk of the book consists of recipes, more accurately, formulas, for baking various kinds of bread. I've tried only two of them so far and both came out excellent. And one of the things that makes this book so helpful is that if your bread doesn't come out excellent you'll learn why it didn't and what to do about it.
This book amplifies Reinhart's previous book, Crust and Crumb, and like that book the formulas will help you bake the best bread you've ever made. And the theory will help you to create your own signature variations.
This is a priceless book and it is also a definite classic. If you don't bake, buy it for someone who does.
on November 13, 2002
When Peter Reinhart's previous book (Crust and Crumb) was published, I stated in my review that this was the only book any serious baker would need. You can still get by with that one, but Reinhart has outcompeted himself with The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Until he pulls another stunt like this, Baker's Apprentice is now the only book any serious bread baker would ever need, or anyone less serious for that sake. Like the last book, Baker's Apprentice is overflowing with information, experience and wisdom, but this one is also tightly organized and well laid out. It is at the same time a baking tutorial, a recipe collection, a reference work, and for baking freaks like me, bedtime reading. Maybe it is a missionary tract too. The various bread types cover a repertoire worthy of any professional baker, yet one that can be accomplished by us amateurs. The photos are pretty but also inspirational and instructional, showing shaping options and procedures. Reinhart's last book got me away from yeasted white bread and onto the path of rustic, naturally leavened bread (although he by no means forces the reader to follow that path). His chapter in this book about the Poilane-style Miche (the loaf shown on the cover) got me off the path and onto the road.
on June 10, 2007
This is a beautiful book and addresses the science of bread making and the chemical processes that occur during it in an in-depth fashion. The question then becomes, why don't I use this book more? I bake bread weekly and, although I have made several of the recipes in this book, I usually find myself turning to other books, where the recipes are clearer and quicker.
Most of the recipes in this book require 2 days to make. The selections are beautiful and tasty, but seem more like breads for special occassions, rather than the everyday fare I'm usually looking for. If you're thinking about getting into the business of breadmaking, I'd certainly recommend buying this book. If, however, you just bake for your family, I think you can find more affordable books that will give you extremely good recipes.
Check out "The Garden Way Bread book" if you want a more eclectic book with very tasty recipes.
on July 8, 2002
This is actually three books in one.
1. A collection of Peter Reinhart's stories and travels. This adds considerable color to the narrative.
2. A group of recipes for bread. For the most part, these recipes employ longer fermentation times and wetter doughs than most people are familiar with, which makes them hard to work with at first. The good part is that they work and work well. After you've made several of the breads, you'll wonder how you made bread any other way.
3. The first 110-odd pages. This is simply the finest how-to book I've ever read on bread baking. It covers the subject from start to finish, from opening the bag of bread flour and wondering what's inside, to letting the finished loaf cool on the rack. Reinhart should publish this separately, it's that good.
If you bake bread, buy it. If you don't bake bread, buy the book and try baking some bread.
This is the Reinhardt book one must have. The book still contains his personal anectdotes but not as much as either Brother Juniper's nor Small Town Magic but what it gives up in personal story telling it amply compensates with clear instruction. This book in conjunction with _Baking with Julia_ and _Breads of the La Brea Bakery_ will make you a very good baker indeed. All three books have their flaws but when combined give a very complete education short of taking a baking course.
The Baker's apprentice gives a clear understanding of how bread works and the 12 stages to develop bread. Providing information for both the home and professional baker including machine and hand instructions; volume/weight/percentage measures and many pictures it is a very good volume that will be hard to top for the wealth of information.
The flaws of the book are minor one being no pictures on how to hand knead which suprised me since he shows how to hand mix. Also, the chapter of sourdough seemed a bit skimpy which is where I think _Breads of La Brea Bakery_ seemed better. Further, his contention that starter from another region will become dominated by local yeasts contradicts the work of Ed Wood and his _Sourdoughs from Antiquity_. A controversial area but one that should not stop you from getting this book and baking.
If you are a serious baker or just starting out this volume will be a touchstone. You will understand bread and how it functions and be able to repeat your success with understanding.
on March 5, 2002
Just bought this book last week - saw it on display at a bookstore, and it sounded interesting...looked through it, put it down to look for a less-leafed-through copy...it was the only copy around, so I grabbed it, bought it, and headed home to try it out. Having begun with Dan Leader's BREAD ALONE and more recently, Maggie Glezer's ARTISAN BAKING ACROSS AMERICA, and many great bread books in between, THE BREAD BAKER'S APPRENTICE has to be recipe for recipe the most practical, and we're talking about a bunch of great titles here. I was curious about the mystique of the Pain a L'Ancienne and had a hard time believing this one bread made of flour, salt, yeast and water...nothin' else, no sugar or anything... could cause the emotions experienced by the author and his friends as described in the book, but I tried the delayed-fermentation technique, baked a batch, and was astounded at this simple complex amazingly creamy bread. So was my family, and we're having a special baking night to make more. Add to this the cinnamon buns that literally made our knees weak, the Portuguese Sweet Bread (I grew up with this stuff in New England) and the rye bread, these are the best consitently successful bread recipes I have ever used in one bread book during the course of one week, and I highly recommend Peter Reinhart's THE BREAD BAKER'S APPRENTICE to anyone who loves to bake bread, as well as read excellent culinary literature.
on April 8, 2002
For the past week, my kitchen, my whole house even, has been filled with the lovely smell of bread. My bread has always been dense and cakey; after years of trying I had given up on the idea of bread making. But now, using Peter Reinhart's wonderful wisdom, my bread is light, airy, chewy, crusty and just amazingly delicious. Much longer fermentation, real bread flour, far less yeast, and minimal kneading! It's magic. It's more in the method than the ingredients. You must try it and see for yourself.
... [I'm making] rich, decadent cinnamon buns (using the RICH man's formula) are undergoing final proofing before being popped in the oven. They have risen phenomenally, sitting as they are atop a 1/4 inch layer of homemade caramel. I cannot remember having made a dough so light, bubbly and elastic. ...
What I love about the book is that, while giving you "formulae," as he calls the recipes, he NEVER FAILS to encourage to experiment. He may have a formula with little fat, but he'll tell you what'll happen if you put a bit more or a bit less, if the fat is lard or butter. You make the final call in your kitchen.
There is something odd, though. There is a formula that calls for 5 1/2 tablespoons of butter and 6 1/2 tablespoons of sugar, for example. Couldn't this have been rounded to 1/4 or 1/3 cups? I suppose it gets important when scaling up, and although the calculations maybe easy had the metric system been used, the ornery imperial system is very unfriendly for this purpose.
The photos are fantastic; sometimes they are indeed worth a thousand words. I look at the photo, and as I feel my bread I know what to "shoot for" so to speak.
Ah well, gotta go! Those sweet cinnamon rolls must be just about ready now. Buy the book!
on January 26, 2002
I have six or seven bread books I've collected over the past ten years. The authors of these books have played an intregal part in my development as a home baker (Marilyn M. Moore, Beth Hensperger, Bernard Clayton, Jr.) and I have tested and tasted breads from my own kitchen with much satisfaction. I'd reached a point where I thought my baking was as good as it was going to get without having very expensive commercial equipment but was pleased to learn, after ordering The Bread Baker's Apprentice, that there is indeed a new level of excellence using everyday tools and ingredients. Mr. Reinhart's stories, photos, techniques, and recipes yield better results than you could ever imagine. The bagels have spoiled me. The artisan breads have spoiled my entire family. This is a fine book to own and work with.
on January 23, 2006
Reinhart's book is truly a textbook of bread baking. It's a wonderful volume, but not at all meant for the casual bread baker.
First, the cons:
1. In order to make many of the recipes, you really have to read the first 100-or-so pages of the book. For casual bakers, this is too cumbersome.
2. A reviewer below mentioned that his/her loaves came out too small and didn't rise in the time alloted. This is probably because these recipes are written for instant yeast instead of the more widely used active dry yeast. Substituting active dry yeast requires a 50% increase in the quantity stated in the recipes. Again, you have to read the first 100 pages to understand the difference.
3. Most of the recipes require 2 days or more to complete. Experienced bakers know how to circumvent this delay by adding in some yeast to the dough, which sacrifices some flavor, but if you've only got one day, you've only got one day.
Now, the pros:
1. The illustrations are great.
2. Most recipes list the finished target temperaure of the bread, which is extremely helpful.
3. Both volume and weight of flour is given, which can be a real timesaver and eliminate the variability introduced by changing humidity levels, etc.
4. The recipes appear to be thoroughly tested.
Altogether, I would recommend this book either to those who have extensive prior exprience in bread baking, or those who are willing to invest the time to study the beginning of the book.