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Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza [A Cookbook] Hardcover – September 18, 2012
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Winner, James Beard Foundation Award 2013 - Baking and Dessert
“If books full of stunning bread porn — all craggy crusts, yeasty bubbles and floured work surfaces — are your thing, here's Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish.”
"Legendary Portland baker Ken Forkish (of the watershed Ken's Artisan Bakery and much-loved Ken's Artisan Pizza) has joined the ranks of the lauded letterers with his mammoth new cookbook Water Flour Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza. In Water Flour Salt Yeast, he aims to bring the spirit and quality of his famous crusty, blistered breads to the passionate home baker using those four titular ingredients."
“Exceptionally detailed and clearly written with dedicated bakers in mind. . . . Cooks and students who are serious about the craft of bread baking will definitely want to check out this title.”
"Forkish's instructions are clear, concise and incredibly precise... For true artisan bread lovers -- and homemade pizza fanatics -- this book sets a new standard."
—Oregonian, June 25, 2012
"Divided into four sections (“The Principles of Artisan Bread,” “Basic Bread Recipes,” “Levain Bread Recipes,” and “Pizza Recipes”), with recipes broken down by breads made with store-bought yeast, breads made with long-fermented simple doughs, and doughs made with pre-ferments, the book presents recipes accessible to novices, while providing a different approach for making dough to experienced bakers. Plenty of step-by-step photographs, along with a chapter outlining “Great Details for Bread and Pizza,” make this slim work a rival to any bread-baking tome. A variety of pizza recipes, including sweet potato and pear pizza and golden beets and duck breast “prosciutto” pizza, (along with an Oregon hazelnut butter cookie recipe), end the title and inspire readers to put on the apron and get out the flour."
—Publishers Weekly, 6/4/2012
“Ken Forkish’s story is as unique, interesting, and delicious as his famous breads and pizzas. The man abandoned his past, courageously stepped off the cliff and followed his passion, and the result has been a gift to all of us: great breads, fabulous pizzas, and now this beautiful book—Flour Water Salt Yeast—in which he reveals all.”
—Peter Reinhart, author of Artisan Breads Every Day and The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking
“Ken nails it, end of story, when it comes to the best levain bread or the thinnest, most perfect pizza crust you’ve ever had. He has set the bar for Portland bakeries—that’s why we use his bread at Le Pigeon. For anybody looking to bake amazing bread at home, this book is a must-have.”
—Gabriel Rucker, chef/owner of Le Pigeon restaurant
“This fun book offers more than just top-quality bread. Flour Water Salt Yeast reveals all the formulas, processes, tips, and tricks Ken established in his years of experience as a professional baker. But most importantly, it teaches home bakers how to create their own bread using multiple schedules and ingredient combinations. Hey—all that without having to get up to bake in the middle of the night.”
—Michel Suas, founder of the San Francisco Baking Institute and author of Advanced Bread and Pastry
“Ken Forkish is an artisan for our times, and the kind of ‘handcraft-it-yourself’ dreamer who makes Portland, Oregon, one of America’s top food destinations. This book is a handsome expression of his bread-baking vision: Forkish is a man unbound, obsessed by the science of fermentation, and excitedly sharing hard-won secrets and exacting recipes from his celebrated sourdough laboratory.”
—Karen Brooks, restaurant critic, Portland Monthly
About the Author
After a twenty-year career in the tech industry, Ken Forkish decided to leave Silicon Valley and corporate America behind to become a baker. He moved to Portland, Oregon, and opened Ken's Artisan Bakery in 2001, followed by Ken's Artisan Pizza in 2006 and Trifecta Tavern in 2013. His first book, Flour Water Salt Yeast, won both a James Beard and IACP award.
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I also have to wonder if all the 5 star reviews actually made some of the recipes as described or if they just glanced over it. If you try to make the Pain Au Bacon there is a typo that has you adding an unnecessary 604 grams of whole wheat flour in the method (it should read only 16 grams!). He also has you build a huge levain for this recipe and only use a fraction of it. There are much more economical recipes out there with much better methods.
Other reviewers stated that a combo cooker is preferable to the Dutch oven method used here and they are absolutely right, a combo cooker is much easier to work with. Forkish also apparently isn't a fan of scoring bread instead advocating for using the natural seam, it's a personal preference but I quite like scoring and making unique designs.
Forkish also claims that in order to have a good rise and taste out of bread you need a combination of natural leaven and commercial yeast. Not true at all, some of the best risen and tasting breads I have ever made have been from using my own starter alone. Commercial yeast has its place at times but you absolutely don't need it to make good bread. Humans have been doing it for thousands of years before yeast was sold and packaged.
I do agree that bread needs to be cooked a lot longer than most people think, a dark flavorful crust is preferable to an under baked loaf any day, and most people negatively reviewing it for that reason probably don't know what good bread looks or tastes like.
Overall, if you are dipping your toes into the water and trying out long fermentation methods with commercial yeast, this book should be fine, but be sure to do the math on the recipes and calculate the correct baker's percentages before you waste flour and time on a typo. If you are looking for a book to get started making naturally leavened bread, go buy Tartine by Chad Robertson.
Note, this book focuses on baking one particular style of bread: the slack-dough (high hydration) country rustic boule. But, it does this very, very well. Also, after years of baking, this is the type of bread that I found to be the easiest, most flexible, and often the most rewarding to bake. It is also pleases everyone, bread aficionados and those who have never tasted artisan bread before. The real beauty lies in that you can use Forkish's techniques to bake bread regularly with very little work and get absolutely stunning, flavorful, and healthy results. Highly recommend his techniques for whole wheat breads, the 40 and 50% varieties are very healthy and so flavorful you would think you are eating a decadent white french bread.
So, in short, if you want to bake incredibly delicious rustic breads regularly without much effort, this is the book to buy. But, if you have the time on your hands, and want to bake many other styles and types of breads, may want to also look up Reinheart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. But, I'll say this, after years of baking from "Apprentice", I hardly ever crack it open anymore now that I found this book unless I want to bake a specific type of bread like challah or need help with shaping for baguettes.
Top international reviews
Until I bought this book..
This book completely changed how I make bread, and I think it's brilliant.
The methods take more time, but it's time waiting, while you sleep or do something else. The effort is miniscule compared to other 'kneading' methods (that you've spent time perfecting), this needs just a bit of gentle folding, microscopic amounts of yeast... It's completely counterintuitive. But read and follow the instructions exactly and be careful with timing and temperatures and you'll make bread that looks exactly like the one on the cover. It's crusty, chewy and full of bubbly pockets.. Really brilliant bread that you'd pay at least £5 for in a artisan bakery.
A few things you should get when you buy the book
- electronic scale,
- a electronic thermometer (I bought the Heston one)
- a banneton (basket) to prove the dough
-a medium to large size cast iron casserole with a lid to bake in. You could splash out on a le creuset casserole but take a tip and get any other brand for a tenth of the price they are just as good. I use a 24cm diameter casserole for each loaf.. This 23cm one would be fine :
First off, it is a bit of an outlay if you don't have a well-stocked kitchen. I had to buy a casserole dish and a thermometer in addition to the book.
But wow is it worth it. He suggests buying fine flour but with Tesco own brand strong white flour I've made a fantastic loaf.
The instructions are extremely through and if you Google "flour water salt yeast" "ken forkish" and "youtube" you will also get some videos showing you every stage to go with the written instructions.
There aren't a lot of recipes in the book and they do take time and it's a lot of worry during that time that you are going to end up with a rubbish loaf, but I think it's better to have a small number of great recipes where you really can replicate the sort of bread you'd get in a bakery/be served in a top-end restaurant, rather than a lot that produce a mediocre loaf.
I would thoroughly recommend this book if you like baking or, like me, you like delicious bread but don't want to pay £3 a loaf for it.
1- I found the recipes waste a lot of flour. When making the levain culture, Forkish calls for using 500 grams flour for each levain culture day, 75-90% of which gets discarded. To reduce waste, I scaled back the starter recipe by 75%. On day 4, I kept all of the product and placed it in the fridge as my starter for future breads.
2- When feeding the levain on recipe day, I reduced the levain feeding amount by half. This means I ended up throwing out a total of 10% v.s. 80% of the remaining culture, by scaling down.
3- Because of scaling back, I found the recommended tub sizes were too big. I ended up using a 2 quart Tupperware to grow my levain. When making the bread, the 16 quart tub made folding bread easy, but I had a hard time watching the rise given how big/flat it is. So, depending on preference, a 6 quart tub is harder to fold in, but much easier to see a 2-3x rise with accuracy.
4- I live in a house with air conditioning but don't run it all the time (house temp between 21-24 celsius). Forkish sometimes quotes a house temp of 18 celsius. So, I think my bread would usually rise faster than what was called for in the recipes (My first attempt at the overnight country white was a fail, I think it was because it rose really quickly and I did not catch it on time). This is why I think a smaller tub size is better to more accurately see the rise, since the time to proof should be based on rise amount, not necessarily time!
So far I have made the Saturday white bread, the pain de champagne, and the field blend 2. The two latter recipes are deliciously complex (being a hybrid of levain and instant yeast culture). The Saturday bread was simple but tastey (being a pure instant yeast recipe). I have not made the other recipes.
For me, the field blend 2 is my go to recipe.
Overall, I am very happy with this book, it has equipped me with the tools and knowledge to make amazing breads at home. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!
I've never done overnight proofing, a polish,, let alone attempt a sourdough. And you can achieve artisanal results easily if you have an electric scale, a couple of banneton baskets than can take a pound and a bit more of dough, and a large bowl to enable you to knead when needed. Also invest in good quality flour, it is a must if you intend to spend a little time on bread making. Also check out for cast iron pots, these are needed in the book to bake the breads.
This is a fantastic book for novices and experienced bakers alike. I'm sure Ken Forkish's knowledge will surprise some of you or support your baking by being a reliable source of information. It's easy to follow, and logical. A lot of other books make it complicated but this book is super approachable.
So if you are thinking of starting a new hobby of bread baking, do yourself a favour and get this book. You will gift yourself repeatedly with the bakes you create.
At first it may seem daunting, and personally I felt a bit discouraged and thought that the process was being overly complex for no particular reason, but after my first ever try following the instructions I got spectacular results! (see image)
So even though it may take more time or the number of steps might seem unnecessarily high, put your faith in this book as it will not lead you astray!
Ken Forkish teaches you from the basis and takes you to the next level, he talks about how important is to take in consideration all the fermentation variables that can impact in taste and texture.
* temperature of the dough(he suggests to buy a food termomether to have a precise mesure)
Useful tools before start to bake:
-As another reader suggested I bought a pyrex glass casserole instead of the expensive and heavy dutch over and it works perfectly!
-Bannenton for dough proofing
It looks would require lot of time for proofing but for most of it we sleep since you start at 6pm, (yes it gives you also a sample schedule!).
He uses unbelievebly small amount of yeast, way lower than what I was used to! He also teaches you how to create a levain and how to personalise recipes!
Amazing, brilliant book, thank you so much Ken!!
As for the overnight country blonde (pure sourdough) I experimented a bit and ended up using 70% and this worked too. The results were amazing and I don't think I will every buy my bread again.
As for the Levain, I have not tried the book's method as it requires you to throw away lots of it. Instead I created a starter over four days adding 25g water to 25g of rye each day ending up with the 100g of starter that was bubbling and smelt as described. I never threw any away and this worked brilliantly and I am now producing daily sourdough loaves that are just amazing.
The book's advice (other than the hydration rates and levain method) are sound and I would thoroughly recommend it. It's also a very good read!
I was slightly cynical of following his methods, using a thermometer, casserole pot, huge tub, and very wet doughs, but it really works consistently with dependable results.
Very wet doughs used to make me flip out and give up. Kneading and knocking back used to make me wonder if the time and effort was worth it.
He has included some of his own story of getting into bread and setting up his bakery and pizza restaurant which adds a lovely flavour, background and illustration to the book.
This book has given me a lot of confidence in my bread-making, and I have had great comments from friends and family who have tried some of my sourdoughs.
I used to make bread in a bread machine, then started my own starter and made sourdough bread from information retrieved from trawling the web; often contradictory or without enough information on the processes I rarely got consistent proper tangy tasty bread, and fretted that I wasn’t feeding the starter in the best way.
After reading this book I will never go back! I am now (several months after buying and reading it) a real fan of Mr Forkish.
They did put me on the right track to use many of the techniques Forkish describes here: low starting yeast amounts, long fermentations or pre-ferments, autolyse, folds etc; however, Forkish makes sense of these for the amateur and really boils it down to the core essentials, describing not only how to do each step, but why you do it, and what is the result to be achieved.
After gaining confidence with some brilliant bread here, I went back to the more complex and complicated books, and suddenly everything started to makes sense.
This book empowers you as an amateur baker.
Oh, and the results are just as good as everyone else has mentioned.
I bought this partly because I was bored out my mind in self isolation and needed a hobby beyond video games, but also in the hope I could educate myself further and maybe produce some decent stuff. Fortunately, all those expectations were blown out of the water. I read through until the section on levain (sourdough, essentially) in one sitting, and by the end of the next day I had something I would happily have paid a fiver for using only basic plain flour, a tiny amount of yeast and a pinch of salt. I found myself talking to anyone who would listen about the difference between poolish and biga and the different kind of processes you can use employing only the four key ingredients to produce completely different results. Ken’s passion for his craft really shines through and you are encouraged to immerse yourself in baking and to properly understand the processes involved and how and why things are done in a certain way.
Admittedly, it is more work than your average cookbook and you need to be prepared to go with the mad scientist stuff (the first loaf I made specified 3/16’s of a teaspoon yeast to 1000g flour). Likewise, it felt like a bit of an autobiography for the first few chapters and you will need to wade through a bit to get to the point. However, if you are interested in getting into baking, want to produce some fabulous bread and are happy to invest some time into it, then get this book.
The book is detailed but very straightforward. I don't understand reviewers who have said it is complicated - it isn't, it's just thorough and Forkish explains the principles behind bread baking which is very important. One reviewer questioned the yeast quantities - I had no problem using the specified amounts with regular fast action dried yeast, but the temperature of your kitchen is important.
You need some kit - I got one of these Berndes 1504102 Round Casserole Dish with Lid, 24cm, 4 Litre, Cast Iron, Red/Orange for the Dutch Oven. The 12Qt Cambro container he recommends (these are a great idea as all the messy stages take place with the tub) are not available here but the UK equivalent is a Vogue CF034 available from catering suppliers.You also need a digital scale, a thermometer and some oven gloves.
This is the first time I've found a bread baking book that enables you, very easily, to make the sort of loaves 'artisan' bakers charge huge sums of money for. The bread tastes great, and the process is a joy.