Bread illustrated is put out by America''s test kitchen, which means each recipe has been tested and retested. People have different feelings about the paragraphs explaining why the recipe works, I find it interesting and enjoy reading it. I have a lot of bread...
Bread illustrated is put out by America''s test kitchen, which means each recipe has been tested and retested. People have different feelings about the paragraphs explaining why the recipe works, I find it interesting and enjoy reading it.
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.