Bread may truly be one of the seven wonders of the world.
I am a carb junky. Guilty as charged. And one of my very, all-time favorite carbs is bread. Bread fresh from the oven is like a warm hug. Bread lifts you up. It reenergizes you. It connects you to the world. It is a wonder.
Before We Start
I’ve baked bread for years as a home cook. Mostly quick breads – because honestly, who has the time?! That is, until COVID-19 struck. Like so many of us, I found myself with more time on my hands that usual and that’s when I really tucked into learning to make yeast breads. One of the first things I learned is that – with a little planning – yeast breads can be part of my regular baking (pandemic or no pandemic). There is now no going back.
It’s really quite simple to make a loaf of bread.– Jeffrey Hamelman
Bread Baking Shouldn’t Intimidate You
First things first: this is a book for serious bakers. And I mean “serious bakers”. Jeffrey Hamelman is a professional baker and he brings that knowledge and technique to Bread. Each recipe contains four lists of ingredients: two for commercial bakers (one in metric units and one in Imperial units), one for the home baker and one of pure ratios. And the commercial measurements mean business; the recipe for raisin bread, for example, yields 27-30 loaves – although the home baker version provides a much more manageable two (large) loaves.
Reminiscent of the GBBO, the directions are thorough but assume a level of baking knowledge that not all home cooks possess. This results in instructions like “shape into baguettes”, which is fine if you actually know how to do so. More of a challenge if you don’t. Unlike hapless contestants on GBBO, though, Hamelman doesn’t leave you to your own devices. The first 80 pages are an exhaustive explanation of the history, the science and the techniques used in bread baking. “Shape into baguettes” in the recipes itself is supported by two pages of instructions and 16 illustrations taking you step by step through the process. It’s like having a professional baker right at your elbow.
There is a definitely language to bread, and it takes practice and lots of patience to learn it, but if you are attentive and receptive, you will see that the language is clear and accessible.– Jeffrey Hamelman
Best of All
Once you get your head around the idea that this is a “book for serious bakers” (no fear!), the recipes are remarkably accessible and often inspiring. And the results? Without a doubt, the best loaves I’ve ever made!
My baguettes, for example, have a proper boulangerie shape. The crust is crispy while the interior is light, chewy and with a hint of tang and nuttiness. If you’ve been to France, you know what I mean. And if you buy baguettes at the grocery store, it’s time to upgrade your bread game.
While I love my other baking books too much to just chuck them out, Bread has become my only bread baking book – as witnessed by the flour-dusted pages and water-warped dust jacket. Whether you are looking to master baguettes, boules or braided breads, Bread the place to start and to stop.