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Bread Illustrated: A Step-By-Step Guide to Achieving Bakery-Quality Results At Home Paperback – Illustrated, September 6, 2016
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About the Author
America’s Test Kitchen is well-known for its top-rated television shows with more than 4 million weekly public television viewers, bestselling cookbooks, magazines, websites, and cooking school. The highly reputable and recognizable brands of America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Illustrated, and Cook’s Country are the work of over 60 passionate chefs based in Boston, Massachusetts, who put ingredients, cookware, equipment, and recipes through objective, rigorous testing to identify the very best. Discover, learn, and expand your cooking repertoire with Julia Collin Davison, Bridget Lancaster, Jack Bishop, Dan Souza, Lisa McManus, Tucker Shaw, Bryan Roof, and our fabulous team of test cooks!
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I have a lot of bread cookbooks, two bookshelves worth, and that is after I got rid of many. Everything from no knead bread to a Passion for bread (which intimidated me so much when I got it I told Jim I wasn't sure I'd ever be that passionate about bread.) Bread Illustrated is laid out from easiest to more involved, so you have early success, learn techniques, then go into more advanced bread baking.
The measurements are both the standard cup, half cup, but it also has weights based on the American scale, for example 10 oz water, 16 1/4 oz flour. It does not give metric on the recipe page, but does conversions in the back, so yes, it does have weights, which I prefer for baking.
Pictures- it has them, gorgeous pictures, both of the finished product, and pictures of techniques, skills, for pretzels it shows how to roll and shape the pretzels, for hoagie rolls how to shape the rolls. Some of the pictures are pretty basic, adding the yeast to the water, but you will have a course in bread making when done with this book.
Most of the recipes also have a trouble shooting guide at the end of each recipe, for example, the fluffy dinner rolls might be tough and hard to handle, they say to make sure the rolls are covered with plastic wrap, then go on to explain if you cut the rolls slowly they can dry out and develop a skin, so cover the cut pieces of dough while working.
The first 37 pages are wonderful reading, they talk about science of gluten, first rise in depth, yeast, equipment, cooling and storing, the pantry, kneading, it's excellent for beginner, interesting and a refresher for those of us who have been baking awhile. Bread machines are not covered, this is a hands on, or big mixer type of making bread.
One of the most interesting techniques, mentioned briefly in the equipment and more in depth on page 37, is using lava rocks with boiling water poured over them to maintain a steamy oven. I had never heard of this before, but it's brilliant. Put the lava rocks in aluminum pie plates and pour the water over the lava rocks to create long lasting steam.
The recipes are varied and interesting enough to make this a go to bread book for basic sandwich loafs, rolls, pretzels, pizza, and then onto breads like sage polenta and pita.
Sweet dough and breads, those lovely lovely cinnamon buns, St Lucia buns, Chocolate babka, are not neglected.
The pages is laid out by recipe title, yield (ex: makes 1 loaf), rising time, resting time, baking time, total time, key equipment. Then the why the recipe works section. On the same page is the list of ingredients, then the instructions, and pictures on following pages.
The chapters, besides the 37 page introduction, are:
Starting from scratch, 12 foolproof breads that teach the basics
Sandwich breads, everyday loaves, modern and classic
Mastering size and shape- dinner rolls and more
The perfect crust- pizzas and flatbreads from around the world
The sweeter side- enriched breads and other treats
Upping your game with sponges- bakery style artisan loaves
raising the bar- project recipes worth the time (here is where you'll find sourdoughs and sprouted breads, for example)
Now, you noticed I said it gave american weights and not metric, which is yes and no. It gives American ozs and lbs in the recipe, but starting on page 414 you will find metric conversions.
the index is alphabetical and well laid out, making recipes easy to find.
Why, when I am so enthused about this book, when the quick cheese bread was delicious, the sandwich loaf was great, am I giving the book a 4 stars? Because the ingredients are typed in a light salmon orange on white paper, no doubt an aesthetic choice but one that makes it difficult to read and doesn't belong in such an otherwise wonderful instructional book. Because the ingredients are such a huge part of the recipe this was, to me, a fairly major flaw and worthy of a one star deduction.
* a special note on kneading. if you don't read page 15 you might think the recipes are only for a heavy duty stand mixer. In the recipes they do not give instructions or time for hand kneading. It will say something like mix 2 min then turn on med high and mix 8 min, so you might think you can't knead by hand, or know how long to knead. On page 15 however, it gives instructions for hand kneading, saying most loaves will take 12-15 minutes. They also give reluctant instructions for the food processor. So yes, they do tell you how to hand knead and the time conversions for most 8 minutes in the mixer, but they don't include that information in the individual recipes.
It's really a good idea to read the first 37 pages no matter how exciting it is to jump in and make some bread.
Otherwise this is an excellent addition for almost anyone interested in bread and bread-like making and baking.
The result was wonderful and just as they pictured it, so the process works. However, although the amount of time is reasonably accurate it became clear that it was a matter of multiple steps each taking a short amount of time followed by a shortish amount of wait time so I was not able to do a step and leave it for while. However, that was minor when the outcome was so good.
But here are the two critical problems with the book that make it almost not worth getting:
1. the list of ingredients is printed in light pink on a semi-glossy white paper make it VERY difficult to read.
2. the list of ingredients for every recipe is printed on the first page of the recipe while the step-by-step instructions are the third page. That make you read the instructions, turn back a page to find the hard-to-read ingredients. Go to step 2 for the instructions, turn the page back to the ingredients, again and again. You can't put the book in a book holder. It won't be long, if I continue using it, until the pages are soiled from measuring and mixing.
I'm not sure what to do next - photo copy the ingredients? Hand write the ingredients next to the instructions? Or decide it's just not worth it? The recipes are fairly common with the usual tested results contributions - great stuff - but this book is very frustrating to actually use.
On to the book. So this is everything and more than I ever wanted! They even have a page so you can create your own sourdough starter. I'm hoping the bread guy will give me some of his but at least I have a back up. From basic dinner rolls to sprouted loaf and stollen. My family will not need to eat bread from a plastic bag ever again. Oh and the flour tortillas too! So every recipe gives you detailed instructions as well as pictures along the way. At the end of each recipe there are what went wrong notes like the bread with polenta ; why is it grainy? Sont use instant polenta it will make the bread grainy. Dont know why these notes are in the end they would be better as maybe an astric next to the ingredients they relate to. Obviously as in all recipes read the whole recipe first plus the what went wrong part and you should be golden. I also like that this book is like a coarse in bread making. The book starts with recipes that are simpler and as you cook your way through the book you will develop the skills needed for the advanced recipes. Also the tools needed in the beginning recipes will more than likely be items you already have.
As always ATK has done their homework and my first breads have turned out. The beginning ones that is. There is no doubt I will be trying every recipe in this book. My new fav skillet pizza sauce recipe included! There are several different recipes for pizza styles from deap dish to calzone. Dinner rolls, english muffins, bagels, hoggies, flat breads, pitas, rye, pumpernickle, wheat berry, doughnuts, soft pretzels, bread sticks, hoagie rolls, croissant, and a personal fav that a local restaurant makes potato dill sandwich bread. There is way more than what I listed but I will let you get excited about a bread that you never thought you could make at home till you got this book!
Some measurements are listed in ounces and cups so if you don't have a scale its ok. It also will tell you what utensils you will need and how long including cooling and resting time each bread will take. I think I might take the local bread guy's place here in town.... he said he was looking to sell his equipment!