New Bread Book by Ken Forkish: Flour Water Salt Yeast
I ordered this book from the library, and I believe I'm the first person to check out this particular volume. The author, Ken Forkish, had left an unsatisfying career in the Silicon Valley, chucking it all for artisan baking. He opened Ken's Artisan Bakery in Portland, Oregon, in 2001.
Checking a bread book out from the library is a different experience from buying it. I read it more carefully than I read the books that I buy because I only had three weeks. When I decided I wanted to try out his techniques, I had to take extra pains to keep it clean because it was not my book and it was so new.
He gives the book his own slant, trying to keep home kitchens in mind. Everything is done by hand, no electric mixers., lots of wetting of the hands. The ingredients are pretty basic, as suggested by the title: Flour Water Salt Yeast. He's particular about temperatures. And he likes the Dutch Oven approach.
But he is perhaps of the supersize generation. The recipes use 1000 grams of flour (mostly white, with up to 75% whole wheat). This is, according to his accommodation, about 7 3/4 cups flour, making 2 loaves, each about 1 1/2 pounds. I was especially shocked that his recipe for making a starter begins with 500 grams (almost 4 cups) ww flour (and 500 grams water); on day two, you toss 3/4 of this mix and add in another 500 grams each ww flour and water; and so on. He mentions somewhere under maintenance that you can scale this down, but is this really practical for the home kitchen?
There is a section on pizzas, tying in with Ken's Artisan Pizza, which he opened in 2006 in conjunction with his bakery. He gives recipes for pizza doughs, based on his other recipes, and focaccias. He also gives real pizza recipes. Looks good.
I was intrigued by his technique descriptions, especially folding and shaping. So I tried one of his recipes, adapting it to 100% whole wheat (and 82% hydration, per his suggestion). I think I need practice, especially on the shaping and the use of the Dutch Oven.
My impression is that, try as he might to be populist, he'll probably scare off beginners, especially with his quantities.
Has anyone else seen the book? What are your impressions?