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The Bread Bible Hardcover – October 17, 2003
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Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible introduced readers to a newly illuminating baking-book approach--a precisely detailed yet accessible recipe format emphasizing baking science. The Bread Bible follows the same plan, offering 150 recipes, arranged by type, for a great variety of baked goods--from muffins, popovers, and English muffins to sandwich loaves, focaccia, rolls, hearth breads, rye bread, challah, and more, with a particularly vivid (and passionate) stop at sourdough loaves. Instruction is abetted by 32 pages of photos plus 300 step-by-step illustrations that depict, for example, bagel forming, in exact, imitable detail. In addition, an introductory section, "The Ten Essential Steps of Making Bread," includes a particularly lucid discussion on the way yeast works plus an invaluable comparison of kneading methods. Like the book's final look at ingredients, these "mini-texts" provide information uncommon to most home bread books, rendered in simple language that allays fears of putting one's hand in the dough.
All this is impressive indeed, and readers bitten by the bread-baking bug will welcome the ultra-thorough Beranbaum approach. The less committed may find her technical demands too painstaking (her baguette recipe requires two starters, for example; though simpler loaves are, of course, offered) or even impractical (ingredient quantities using grams are sometimes given in minute fractions, requiring a special scale). The frequent inclusion of alternate mixing methods and equipment options can also make the formulas unwieldy. On the other hand, features like Pointers for Success and Understanding often yield exciting discovery as well as rewarding results. In short, this Beranbaum bible answers virtually every bread-making question, as well as providing exemplary formulas. It's the real deal for those willing to bake along with Rose. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
As in her seminal The Cake Bible, which won an IACP prize, Beranbaum doesn't just offer recipes here; she dissects them, explains how they work, then puts them back together again with a number of variations. The front matter to what Beranbaum terms her "bread biography" contains perhaps the best explanation anywhere of how yeast works and a description of the sponge method used for almost every yeast-risen bread. Each recipe also includes a "Rose ratio," which shows at a glance the percentage of water, yeast, flour and fat in each bread. The author's discussion of the pros and cons of various kneading methods (bread machine, by hand, etc.) is invaluable. After all this information, bakers will be eager to get to the recipes, which are equally rewarding. Beranbaum covers everything from a Chocolate Bread made with cocoa nibs to a Traditional Challah. Recipes are arranged by type of bread, with groups including sandwich loaves and dinner rolls and brioche breads. A chapter on artisanal hearth breads includes Heart of Wheat Bread, with wheat germ for extra crunch, and New Zealand Almond and Fig Bread with an apricot glaze. Every time Beranbaum seems about to go overboard with too much information, she steps back from the brink, as in the excellent introduction to sourdough, where she thoroughly explains how sourdough works, then provides a simple box with eight rules for making a starter. Beranbaum could have a second career as a scientist, but luckily for home bakers she seems intent on creating a library of seminal cookbooks instead.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
Rose has a no-nonsense, right to the point way of sharing her knowledge, and her recipes are concise, easy to read, and easier to follow. You might wonder what on earth some of those little extra steps are, but believe me, they do make a difference. It's those little extra steps that are the things your grandma or mum might have told you if they were teaching you how to make these recipes, and that is what I appreciate so much about this book.
The foccacia recipe is a family favorite. I also recommend you look for her other "bible" books. We own them all and use them constantly.
On top of that, there are very few BREADS, mostly what I would call dessert breads or pastries, like muffins, croissants, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, brioche, challa,etc. Not a Bread Bible by any means. Oh, and someone should let the cover designer know that if they placed the title over the dark background instead over the bread, it would actually be readable.
As a chemistry Ph.D. I have a real soft spot for measurement, and Beranbaum does not disappoint, with each recipe coming with a comprehensive ingredient table (quoting quantities in American-style liquid volumes, ounces, and grams). She makes a hard sell for equipment like gram scales (the kitchen application of which I've been a stalwart advocate for a long time), baking stones (which I buckled down and bought), thermometers (a mixed bag for me), and stand mixers (which, alas, I don't have the space for). She pays close technical attention to different flours. The grayscale drawings teaching techniques like shaping loaves are exquisite. These attentions make for reproducible reaction mixtures and stable ovens, and I appreciate how they help the reader get past the purgatory of being a dabbler experiencing seemingly unpredictable brilliant successes and miserable failures with his or her bread.
All of that said, for how thick this book is, it's disappointing how thin its range of recipes is. Beranbaum's quirks color the kinds of recipes she offers very, very strongly. She doesn't like whole wheat flour (as I do), so she dotes on recipes with tortured ingredient lists engineered to minimize wheat bran. The reader's whole wheat options are reduced to picking apart which recipe has the least miserly percentage of whole wheat flour thrown into its base of bread flour or all-purpose flour. I had some interest in what she had to say about Indian flatbreads, which I grew up attempting to learn from my mom with middling success; her eyebrow-raising single entry is a beef-stuffed paratha with an involved bit of cooking to prepare the stuffing, a rare appearance of meat in this book as the sole representative of a country whose population mostly doesn't eat it. Beranbaum loves squishy American-style breads with ingredients like nonfat dry milk and lecithin, recipes that don't speak much to my priorities for a ludicrously time-consuming hobby when a supermarket is close by. The end result is a curation of recipes that feels weird to me, leaves itches unscratched, and is not at all encyclopedic.
So I'm definitely thankful to have purchased this book, but at the end I still reach out to the Internet for bread recipes to fill its large lacunae. And when I do, I'm back into the dreck of haphazard recipes free of mass measurements, yearning for Beranbaum's exacting touch to make them reliable.
Most recent customer reviews
I have zero experience with baking and thought I'd give it a try.
It's easy to understand and I'd recommend to read the whole beginning because...Read more