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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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The Kindle edition would get zero stars because it is useless without a navigable recipe index. There is NO excuse for a cookbook not to have a recipe index with active hyperlinks back to the recipe page. And please don't tell me that Kindle has a search function. I am aware of that, just as I am aware that it is completely useless with cookbooks. So until and unless the author and publisher decide to step up their game with e-books, don't waste you money on the electronic edition.
As for the content of the book, it is thorough. One can learn a lot from it, but one can also be so intimidated by the dictates and persnicketyness that it will suck all the fun out of baking. I think I'm just burned out on the whole "bible" format and its inherent way of making things appear far more complicated than they need to be. I don't find the results to be any better for all the "rules."
However, the Kindle edition's features and setup are disappointing. The index is nothing more than an alphabetic listing of the book's content. It does not have links to the relevant pages or any type of location markers making it difficult to find desired content. An index is a critical part of a reference book. It appears that little thought or effort was put into converting the paper edition to the Kindle edition.
The recipes are very well chosen and there's nothing I wouldn't want to bake--there's no skipping sections as I normally do with most cookbooks. I've baked close to a dozen recipes from this book and each has exceeded my expectations. My kitchen is now filled with all types of flours and other ingredients I previously didn't even know what they were used for.
I don't usually gush about items, but this book has been a big influence on me. I highly recommend it!