Book Review: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Easy Artisan Bread

Categories: Books
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Wilks Communications
Complete Idiot's Guide to Easy Artisan Bread

In the 1980's, artisan bread baking in America began to move out of the province of professional bakeries and back into the hands of home bakers. Bread experts wrote tomes about baking ingredients and the bread making process, in terms more readily understood by chemists than cooks. Creating the perfect loaf requires time, practice, persistence and patience. Qualities missing from our frenetic modern lives.


In 2006, Mark Bittman, of the New York Times, wrote about a no knead bread method taught to him by Jim Leahy of Sullivan Street Bakery. Mix flour, yeast, water and salt, let the dough double in size. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3 to 24 hours, then shape and bake.


No kneading? Leave the dough alone to develop flavor and texture? Does the method work for all types of bread dough? Can we all bake artisan breads at home? Yes!

 follow the jump for more on the no knead method

Yvonne Ruperti, a Cook's Illustrated test cook and writer, features the no knead method in a new Idiots Guide, extending its use beyond the basic boule (traditional round French yeast bread). In the simple style and format of The Complete Idiot's Guide series, she demystifies bread-baking basics for wanna be artisan bakers.

 Part 1 of the book is a tutorial, detailing no knead know how. Background information on the importance of quality ingredients, proper tools and minimal equipment needs, is explained in the context of getting good results. Have an aversion to reading long explanations? "The Least You Need to Know" highlights essential information at the end of each chapter.

 Ruperti offers tips throughout the book, under the headings of Baker's Dozen-how to properly measure flour in a measuring cup, Bread Head-"use a thermometer, yeast begins to die at 120 F", and Dough Don't -"most breads are finished at a baking temperature that's on the cusp of 212 F." The advanced baker may take exception to Ruperti's use of cup measurements v weight for dry ingredients, but hey, it's the Idiot's Guide, and her goal is to initiate the intimidated.

 Beginners resist skipping Part 1 and heading straight for the recipes, especially you- the type that habitually throws out the directions before assembling furniture from Ikea. Beyond the chapters on the basics, the balance of the book holds recipes for a selection of traditional yeast breads, breakfast and holiday breads and quick breads (leavened by baking soda or baking powder).

This cookbook snob likes the Complete Idiots's Guide to Artisan Bread in spite of some over simplification, the nature of the Idiot Guide series. The beginning baker can produce an impressive loaf following the no knead technique and Ruperti's tips. Experienced bakers will enjoy applying the technique to a variety of more complex doughs. Ruperti's explanations are concise and inspire confidence in the no knead method. Grab this guide, a bowl and spoon, give that electric mixer a rest, with no effort and a little time, you can enjoy a satisfying home baked slice.










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