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The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread Hardcover – November 14, 2001
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"A bread baker, like any true artisan or craftsman, must have the power to control outcomes," says Peter Reinhart, author of The Bread Baker's Apprentice. "Mastery comes with practice." As in many arts, you must know and understand the rules before you can break them. Reinhart encourages you to learn the science of bread making, but to never forget that vision and experimentation, not formulas, make transcendent loaves. The Bread Baker's Apprentice is broken into three sections. The first is an amusing tale of Reinhart's visit to France and his discovery of pain à l'ancienne, a cold-fermented baguette. The second section comprises a tutorial of bread-making basics and Reinhart's "Twelve Stages of Bread." And finally, the recipes: Ciabatta, Pane Siciliano, Potato Rosemary Bread, New York Deli Rye, Kaiser Rolls, and Brioche, to name a few. All recipes include bread profiles and ingredient percentages. Reimagined for modern bakers, these mouthwatering classic recipes are bound to inspire. --Dana Van Nest
From Library Journal
Author of the well-respected Brother Juniper's Bread Book and Crust & Crumb, baker-turned-culinary instructor Reinhart draws on his baking and teaching experience to provide an authoritative but unintimidating guide to baking professional-quality loaves of all sorts. He begins with an account of a recent tour of specialty bakeries in Paris, including Gosselin, where he learned to make the young baker's unique pain l'ancienne which, Reinhart says, would be better called pain moderne, as it uses a modern invention (the refrigerator) to produce a "cold-dough delayed-fermentation" baguette, the best he has ever tasted. He found this technique revolutionary, and he includes the recipe here, along with a wide variety of other artisan and classic breads, from Ciabatta to Poilene-Style Miche to Tuscan Bread. The recipes are preceded by a 50-page primer on the "twelve stages of bread," and there are dozens of photographs, including particularly helpful ones of shaping different loaves. Valuable for both the professional and the novice, this is highly recommended for all baking collections.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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I had the opportunity to bake the original challah recipe immediately followed by the new & improved 15th anniversary updated recipe. In comparing them directly, I found that there were two significant improvements to the new edition. The original recipe called for water in the range of 7-9 ounces, and I ended up having to make adjustments to the dough from having guessed wrong. The new recipe called for 7 ounces exactly, and the dough was perfect from the very start--like a gymnast sticking the landing to their routine. I loved working with the new recipe's dough. After baking, I found that the original recipe yielded a nice dark golden brown crust, while the improved recipe was a beautiful deep mahogany tone more consistent with professionally made challah loaves that I have seen elsewhere. To me, this was a convincing start in appreciating these updated recipes, and I felt like a rainbow just appeared over my oven!
One of the weakest parts of the original edition was the sourdough method. The original procedure for creating a seed culture [the initial step] worked for me in a pass/fail sense, although I ended up needing one extra day to get the seed culture to double [working at about 70 degrees, which was right in the middle of his recommended temperature range (65F-75F)]. Reinhart has updated his method for this book, and it now includes an adaptation of the pineapple juice solution from his book “Whole-Grain Breads.” This is a positive step for the 15th anniversary edition. In comparison, I found the new procedure easier to use, and I had a working seed culture in a little under five days at about 69 degrees room temperature--which was one day earlier than my previous experience. I have been able to satisfactorily make Reinhart’s Basic Sourdough Bread and Poilane-Style Miche recipes without using any commercial yeast. Please see pictures below.
Since the original edition of this book, Reinhart has always taught two baker’s percentage methods, but it would seem that he originally had a preference for the method which expressed the pre-ferment as an ingredient. I was never very fond of this method myself, and I always ended up converting his figures into the other method. I am happy to say that Reinhart has edited the 15th anniversary edition to include both methods simultaneously. So, the book has been lengthened somewhat, and this represents a nice commitment on the part of Ten Speed Press, a publisher that I regard highly. As an added bonus, the book now includes metric measurements, in addition to ounces and measuring cups/tablespoons.
There were over one hundred recipe testers involved in the first edition, and this is not something that should be taken for granted. I’ve had very good success baking from this book. Bake times and temperatures have worked pretty well on the first try. In my extended family, I have seen that there is a great difference in home ovens. Reinhart writes, “No two ovens bake the same, so all baking times are approximate and based on conventional radiant-heat ovens (p. 38).” When I have rented a vacation home, I have enjoyed bringing this book along with me because Reinhart’s bake temperatures and times do well in an oven that I am not very familiar with. I believe the good results that I have experienced with this book have been a result of the extensive recipe testing.
In the original edition of this book, Reinhart teaches the double-steaming method—but he does have a prominent note about La Cloche, noting that “these are fun to use and do a great job of trapping moisture for a big oven spring and shine (p. 94).” I think there are a good many home bakers, including myself, who have come to the conclusion that La Cloche bakers (along with Dutch Ovens and inverted hotel pans on a baking stone) do a much superior job of trapping steam than any other techniques, including Reinhart’s method. Unless I’m missing something, it would appear that the note about baking cloches has been removed in the 15th anniversary edition. That’s unfortunate, because Reinhart influenced me to purchase a cloche--and I have never regretted it.
The book now includes a section on desired dough temperature calculations. Reinhart writes, “Although most of the instructions in this book provide the temperature for the liquid, feel free to calculate it yourself using this formula and adjust the liquid temperature as needed based on your temperature conditions and the mixing method you are using (p. 53).” Reinhart’s temperatures have worked well for me, so I don’t know how necessary this new information will be, but many other books include similar formulas.
There are three new formulas in this 15th anniversary edition: Sprouted Wheat and Brown Rice Bread (p. 291), Sprouted Whole Wheat Onion and Poppy Seed Bialys (p. 294), and Beyond Ultimate Cinnamon and Sticky Buns (p. 297). The Sprouted Wheat and Brown Rice Bread was very easy to make, and it turned out well technically--but the flavor wasn't so compelling that I'd want to make it a second time, especially given that it requires special flour. Reinhart has a note that the Bialys can be made from bagel dough instead of the sprouted whole wheat flour, and that is the definite preference in our house. I will certainly make that recipe again, but only using the bagel dough. The Cinnamon Buns were well received at a holiday party that I took them to. I don't think that these three recipes in and of themselves would be enough justification for someone with the first edition to purchase the book anew. However, 15 years have passed where the author got feedback on the original edition, and he definitely addressed some of the criticisms, such as the use of shortening. There are a few formula changes, but sometimes the differences in the recipes may come down to an improvement in the handling of the dough. I treasure baking enough of these recipes that having the latest edition of the recipes is worth it to me.
My enthusiasm level for this book is very high. Nevertheless, my experience has had some disappointments along the way. My first attempt at his Bagel recipe (p. 121) turned out so excellent that I decided bake his Cinnamon Raisin Bagel variation ( p. 127) two days later. Unfortunately, it turned out unsatisfactory. The first edition only specified 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, but the 15th anniversary edition was edited to also include the weight in both ounces and grams. There's an assumption with this book that weights are more accurate and should be used whenever possible, as opposed to measuring cups and tablespoons. So, I used the 14g weight specified in the 15th anniversary edition and later found it to be way too much. Afterwards, I went back and measured out a tablespoon of cinnamon, only to find that it weighed only 4.7g. That's very close to a 3X difference. In her book, "BakeWise" (p. 497), Shirley Corriher lists a teaspoon of ground cinnamon as weighing 2 g, thus implying a tablespoon weighs 6g. Rose Levy Beranbaum lists one tablespoon of cinnamon as weighing 6.5g on p. 572 of "The Bread Bible." Regardless of whether you accept Corriher, Beranbaum, or my weight measurement figures, the 14g/tablespoon from this recipe is way too high for this recipe. Given that cinnamon in relatively larger percentages retards yeast activity, the result is a compromised recipe. By using a tablespoon to measure the cinnamon--instead of using the weights--I've successfully made the Cinnamon Raisin Bagels, and my wife is quite fond of this recipe.
One of my few disappointments from the first edition was the Swedish Rye (Limpa) recipe. I felt that it was too aggressively spiced with ground aniseed, fennel and cardamom for my tastes. I always had it in the back of my mind to try it again by reducing the spices in half as a new starting point. In the first edition, these three spices are listed as requiring one teaspoon weighing 0.11 ounce each. In the 15th anniversary edition (p. 274), the ground aniseed is still listed as one teaspoon but the weight has changed to three times as much from the first edition! In other words, someone has made a typing mistake in preparing weight of the aniseed in the new edition. So, the conclusion of what I'm trying to tell you is that this book is not infallible. It's in your best interest to have your calculator on hand to help verify the formulas before you start. I haven't found a lot of mistakes with this book, but it has been necessary to talk about a few of its problems in order to present a convincing argument that you should double-check figures before you start. I do believe that the book is generally of a very high standard, although it is not perfect.
In conclusion, this has been a valued book in my collection, yielding many beloved recipes. It has also been influential of other authors. For these reasons, I consider the book to be a classic text, and I am grateful to have this 15th anniversary edition in my collection.
Pictures: I have uploaded eight pictures, although they have not always displayed properly due to technical difficulties: Celebration Challah Loaf (p. 140); Knotted Roll made from White Bread, variation #2 (p. 286); Hot Dog Buns made from White Bread, variation #2 (p. 286); Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread with a cinnamon swirl and cinnamon sugar crust pan loaf (p. 154); pan loaf of Vienna Bread with special Dutch Crunch / Mottled topping (p. 280); the picture with the three slices are from left to right: 100% naturally-leavened Pain au Levain with raisins (a variation of Basic Sourdough Bread, p. 246), Whole-Wheat Bread (p. 288), and 100% naturally-leavened Poilane-Style Miche (p. 256); a slice of Marbled Rye Bread (p. 191); and a Bagel (p. 121) next to a Bialys (p. 294).
The breads themselves are... well... uninspiring. The breads can't compare in complexity and texture to the kind of stuff you get baking in a dutch oven with Chad Robertson Tartine Bread or Ken Forkish Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza. The side notes in the Reinhart recipes are often interesting, whereas the results are not --at least not to my taste. I like the hard, crumbly crust, large air pockets and complex flavor of the Robertson and Forkish breads that are baked in dutch ovens. I was disappointed by Reinhart's naturally leavened breads (my bread preference) in comparison to Forkish or Robertson; which is somewhat understandable, since this books is targeted at a wide audience and artisanal naturally leavened bread is a niche. Also, Reinhart's bottle spray and pan of steam water does not solve the moisture problem of baking in a home oven without steam. For the most part Reinhart's yeasted bread is 'just like all the others' to me: good, but not compelling enough for me to keep the book.
I sold my copy of this book. I knew after trying 4 of the recipes (two of them twice and one three times) and comparing them to other books/authors, this would not be a go-to book for me. Reinhardt does have some nice innovations like using a soaker and making Anadama bread over 2 days, which is an improvement over the traditional 1-day method, so if you have a favorite bread, you might find Reinhart's take on it interesting.
Because the book is mostly about basic method and technique, not the recipes, I don't want to discourage anyone looking for a good beginning primer on bread from picking it up. If you enjoy baking with Peter Reinhart, just remember this is a 'get-you-started' book. There are better books (and authors) for intermediate and advanced bakers with what I believe are superior methods and results.
Having worked through three Reinhart books, I think this is the best Reinhart book overall, since there is more technique and background knowledge, which is Reinhart's strength. The photos are quite good (and plentiful) and the steps are completely and painstakingly described. Reinhart's whole grain book that followed this book feels like pretty much the same book substituting whole grains, with a more abbreviated instructional section. Mr. Reinhart's thinking, communication style and graphics in Bread Baker's Apprentice have advanced from the book prior to this book, Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers, making Crust and Crumb kind of obsolete [there are no photos in that book, only drawings]; not worth buying if you already own this book. However, I have retained my original copy of that book because I like a couple of the recipes.
I found that I outgrew the Bread Baker's Apprentice sooner than I thought I would. The Bread Baker's Apprentice feels like the kind of book that tells you how to make some number of breads and covers techniques as they relate to each bread. It does not feel like the kind of book that builds true mastery of technique in the way that Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread does. If what I had wanted was a good step by step on how to bake a stable of breads, then I would have been satisfied with the book.
In summary, I think the Bread Baker's Apprentice is a good first look at bread making. If you are new to bread baking, read it at the library or borrow the book from a friend for the first 100 pages and the embedded notes in the recipes, perhaps reading it a couple times over, and trying some of the recipes, copying those you try and like. If you want an easy desk reference for baking a stable of good quality breads, then by all means buy it. If you are more serious about bread, I recommend instead purchasing first Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza and then when you want to advance further, Tartine Bread. If you want more recipes after that, there are many competent bread baking books with reliable (and good) recipes [my choice would be Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes] or search the internet.