The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

52 Loaves

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Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

52 Loaves

"52 Loaves" is the title of a book I found yesterday at a Barnes and Noble bookstore in Omaha, NE. It's written by William Alexander, the writer who did another book "The $64 Tomato" about his home gardening experiences. I haven't read the book but did skim enough of it that I thought it might be of interest to the community.


Mr. Alexander went out to dinner one night and had an epiphany about bread. He tried what the resturant called a Rustic loaf and decided to learn how to bake bread. The book details how he spent the next year learning about bread in his search for the crispy crust, aveolar and translucent crumb, and the other goals that I've been working on myself.


Retail on this smallish volume is around $24USD for a hardback copy. Amazon has it for just over $16USD. If I can't get a copy through the Kansas interlibrary loan program, I'll wait for the paperback. This looks like the kind of book you could read at the beach or even finish on a long airplane trip. It may be what I need to help keep my view of baking in perspective. I welcome comments on the book from any one that has already had the chance to read it.

Martyn's picture
Martyn

52 loaves, eh! Sounds like a challenge :-D

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

I gathered that his idea was to bake at least one loaf a week while he worked on the book and toward his idea of a perfect loaf.

William Alexander's picture
William Alexander

Well, since someone else brought it up, I'll toss modesty by the wayside and jump in, not only as the author of 52 Loaves but a FreshLoaf follower (this forum is even quoted once) ...Yes, that's exactly the idea. I baked a loaf a week for a year, tinkering each week while trying to bake the perfect pain de campagne, but also much more: I grew my own wheat for flour, visited yeast factories and flour mills, baked in a communal oven in Morocco and took a class in Paris, and finally end up restoring a lost 1300 year old tradition of baking in a French monastery, almost having a breakdown in the process. More at williamalexander.com


 

NetherReine's picture
NetherReine

Just ordered this from Amazon - can't wait to get it!

ehanner's picture
ehanner

At first flush, this sounds like an interesting read. The critics are complementary although I don't quite get the "funny" aspect. I'll have to read it I guess. It's nice to see that Mr. Alexander is a member here. A shame he hasn't posted his perfect loaf.


Eric

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss


  • Take my word for it, Eric, the book is laugh-out-loud funny! Alexander is a very talented writer whose style is at times self-depracating but exceedingly honest, often describing emotions and dilemmas only we as passionate bakers could possibly understand.  He includes his recipes in the book.


 

ericazwell's picture
ericazwell

My wife picked up 52 Loaves for me. I flew through it as I couldn't put it down. I had been struggling with making my "perfect" loaf, to no avail. I waited until finishing Alexander's 52'd loaf and decided to try his recipe. The bread was AMAZING. Perfect crust, excellent crumb and incredible flavor. I have a loaf of Alexander's peasent bread in the oven right now. I opted for a batard this go around. Read the book. Bake his recipe.


azwell

berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys

Just as I made a 'close but no cigar' pain de campagne today. I'll have to see if the library has this. Thanks!

Roo's picture
Roo

If this book is as good as as the $64 Tomato than it is definately worth the read.   He writes extremely well and you can't help but feel his pain or laugh along with him.  Everytime I travel to Minnesota to visit family I reread the $64 Tomato, so I will have to get this one for them so they can have both.

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

When Borders closed last year, they sold their remaining stock at bargain prices.  A week before the final closing, I visited my local one and did indeed find some bargains.  One book I found was this one, 52 Loaves, which I only now got around to reading.  I'd expected a dry memoir, but what I got was a ROFL read.  I'm about to start on Week 39.  Thanks, Bill, for such a wonderful book.  So is it passion or obsession?

Rosalie

William Alexander's picture
William Alexander

Is there a difference? (I know how my wife would answer....) Thanks for the compliments, Rosalie. When you finish the book, you can follow my further baking misaadventures on my bread blog, breadblog.williamalexander.com.

-Bill

larryparis10's picture
larryparis10

Hey Bill, and excuse my familiarity because I feel as if I know you, and I do? I think. It's astonishing to me that there are people around who haven't discovered your books, but oh how I envy them, as Hemingway once said of Conrad to someone who had not yet read him. You are truly talented and with such a very nice family.  But wow, are you ever lazy :-}

larryparis10's picture
larryparis10

Hey Bill, and excuse my familiarity because I feel as if I know you, and I do? I think. It's astonishing to me that there are people around who haven't discovered your books, but oh how I envy them, as Hemingway once said of Conrad to someone who had not yet read him. You are truly talented and with such a very nice family.  But wow, are you ever lazy :-}

William Alexander's picture
William Alexander

Thanks for the plug and your kind words. And for anyone interested in extras from both "The $64 Tomato" and "52 Loaves," including a tour of the abbey, or what I've been up to since writing "52 Loaves", I have a website at williamalexander.com, which also has a link to my bread blog, breadblog.williamalexander.com.  (Next up: learning French! -- How hard can that be?)