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Portrait of Suas in SF Chronicle

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hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Portrait of Suas in SF Chronicle

Hi all,

I was googling for more info on Suas' bread and pastry book (I guess I was trying to find a way to justify purchasing it... I'm still undecided as it's a lot of money for me), and came over a recent SF Chronicle article on Michel Suas. I think you'll enjoy it! Don't miss the rustic, traditional baguette recipe at the bottom:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/24/FDST12VPFT.DTL

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

HansJoakim,

Nice piece from the Chron.  Thanks!  Good to see stories about our local institute.  I find two things of interest; Suas ran out of money in San Francisco and two, he hadn't been exposed to sourdough till arriving here...,

Wild-Yeast

breadawe's picture
breadawe

Give yourself a treat and buy the book.  Accurate recipies, clear text and lots of information.  A great reference book for anybody that has a passion for making bread.

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

I really want to, breadawe! I really do. I'll try to stick it out to the holiday season and put it on my wishlist. Don't you think it would make for a nice gift from the family to myself?

I'll promise to share some of the baked results in return ;-) 

breadawe's picture
breadawe

Hansjoakim; tell the family you want to pick it up yourself when you attend one of his bread making classes.  That will be an experience you will never forget

dougal's picture
dougal

Hansjoakim, if you still have that "well-thumbed" Hamelman book, I think you'll very soon be disappointed with this one.

 

Most of the people that think its a "fantastic, superb, best ever, etc" book would seem to be connected in some way with Suas's SFBI, many as former students. I think the charitable explanation is that they found their courses excellent, and are transferring that opinion to the book.

The unfortunate truth is that the first edition is full of numeric typos, and has other problems too.

Its a bigger book than Hamelman's, but its actually got fewer pages on bread. And Hamelman has much more, and more useful, stuff - not least about sourdough. Suas has lots more about additives though...

And Suas's bread pages are principally about commercial (down market and higher volume) baking rather than "artisanal" baking.

"Artisan" bakers (in my understanding of the term) wouldn't be using bromated flour and all the additives described throughout the book. They would not be adding yeast to their sourdoughs. And they would be concerned about their water supply - something Suas doesn't even mention!

Look up Chlorine in Hamelman's index - and you'll find two references to Chlorinated water upsetting sourdough cultures. In Suas's book the only Chlorine index entry leads to a mention of 'sanitising' cleaning materials!

This is an especially puzzling omission from Suas's book because there's LOTS of Chlorine in San Francisco tap water, and well y'know, SFBI, and San Francisco sourdough... but NO mention whatsoever of the problem, never mind any solutions. And incidentally SF tapwater uses the more persistent form "Chloramine" that isn't even dealt with by the technique Hamelman mentions. (But a trace of Vitamin C does the job.)

Don't bother looking for discussion of the effect of water mineralisation - which you'll find on this board.

However you will learn (if you hadn't already guessed) on page 145 that flour with a higher water absorption is "economically more interesting" because you can make a greater weight of dough from the same weight of flour.

How do you deal with flour with varying water absorption? Get an "experienced baker who knows how to assess dough consistency" to conduct a test and adjust the formula!!! (Again quoting from page 145.)

 

Sadly I think this book is rather over-hyped. (And this is the second or third thread pointing to the same puffery in Suas's local newspaper.)

Its just a textbook intended for production operatives in mass market catering.

And its an imperfect first edition.

 

I've bought Hamelman, Glezer (Artisan Baking across America), a couple of Lepard's, a couple of Reinhart's (BBA & WGB), Calvel, Lalos, Elizabeth David, Wing and Scott, and a pile of others including Dr Emily Buehler's book.

To an aspiring artisanal baker, I'd recommend all of them before Suas's. 

Its the one book I'm starting to regret buying.  

plevee's picture
plevee

You can have mine half price!

There are some interesting pages in the techniques section, but even here, for the home baker at least, Hamelman is much more informative . Patsy

CarlSF's picture
CarlSF

As a professional bread baker, the book is worth buying.  Let's be clear first...the book is titled "Advanced bread and pastry.  A professional approach."  This book may not be suitable for the homebaker as it contains over 1000+ pages of information (22 chapters) about bread, pastry, chocolate, cookies, viennoiserie, mousse, cakes, ice cream, chocolate, sugar decoration, etc.  So, this book is not exclusively about bread.  A book of this magnitude is bound to have errors or typos.  Heck, I even found an error in Hamelman's book as well.  There are some things you might find in Suas' book that Hamelman didn't mentioned, and there are some things you might find in Hamelman's book that Suas didn't mentioned.

 I am also a former student of SFBI, and I live in SF.  In one of SFBI's classes we created a sourdough culture, and we used tap water right out of the faucet.  The culture came out just fine when we used it for bread making.  I also created a sourdough culture at home as well, and I didn't have any problems during the initial stages.

 If you have an interest in bread baking only, Hamelman and Suas' books are good, but if you are thinking about going into the baking profession or are in the baking profession and want to learn more, then Suas' book is very thorough.  

Read the book and judge for yourself to see if it meets your needs.

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Hi all, and thanks for all the comments regarding the book! I didn't intend to start a thread about it here, but I certainly appreciate reading your impressions everyone!

Since I already got a well-worn copy of Hamelman, I'd be mainly interested in the pastry section of Suas' book. Any thoughts on those chapters? I still got months and months (probably years) ahead of me before I've tried most of the recipes in Hamelman's "Bread", so I'm not really looking for another "Bread" equivalent (like BBA, WGB, Glezer, Lepard etc.). 

dougal's picture
dougal

Mike Avery wrote:

Water is talked about a lot, and while it is important, most people seem to be looking in the wrong directions.

Chlorine, in most water systems, just isn't a problem. It doesn't stop the critters from growing, it doesn't kill them once they are established. The exception to this, based on correspondence with some folks, is the water systems that use chloramine, a persistent form of chlorine. But, in general, if your water tastes OK, it will be OK for sourdough. However, it is worth noting that the taste of your water has little impact on the taste of bread. Tasting is just an indicator for the quality of the water. The water here doesn't taste of chlorine though it has some strange salts in it. The bread made with it tastes fine. On the chlorine front, it is worth noting that most home water filters do little with chlorine and even less with chloramine. Chloramine is resistant to standing and boiling.

 

A more critical issue, I am discovering, is the mineral content of water. I used to live in an area with very hard water. I have moved to an area with amazingly soft water. And now the dough is not as coherent as it used to be. Before it wasn't as elastic as it could have been, now it's way softer than I am used to. As someone commented, "the water seems wetter today."

The mineral content is very important, and for that reason, I would suggest avoiding distilled water and other demineralized waters. Bottled spring water is OK if you hve to avoid local tap water, however, most of us really don't have to avoid tap water.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/5332/how-do-i-improve-sourdough-flavor-and-texture#comment-34645

 

Chloramine was re-introduced to SF water supply in 2004

http://sfwater.org/mto_main.cfm/MC_ID/13/MSC_ID/166/MTO_ID/399

 

My point was that the matter of water quality, in any shape or form, is not mentioned at all in this "Advanced" book.

 

CarlSF wrote:
This book may not be suitable for the homebaker as it contains over 1000+ pages of information (22 chapters) about bread, pastry, chocolate, cookies, viennoiserie, mousse, cakes, ice cream, chocolate, sugar decoration, etc. So, this book is not exclusively about bread.

Indeed, only about 250 pages are on bread. But there's another 100 on Viennoiserie.

It is clearly not written for the home baker. It would be foolish to suppose that.

My point here was that it is not really written for professional "artisan" bakers either.

Unless they only use 47% wholewheat flour in their "whole wheat" loaves, and use yeast in their sourdough, etc. ... see for example: 

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/8532/michel-suas-whole-wheat-sourdough-bread-advanced-bread-and-pastry#comment-43750  

The section on chocolate is rendered quite literally unbelievable because of the utter and total confusion over temperatures. "Tempering" chocolate is the critical first stage in chocolate work. Take a look at page 955. The graph of tempering temperatures simply doesn't illustrate the numbers beneath. And the numbers given in the text above (with some wrong F to C conversions) don't agree with either the lines on the graph or the numbers beneath the graph. And on page 954 it is made clear that the section is being written for chocolate novices. Not "advanced' chocolatiers.

How can one have confidence in that quality of teaching?

Ice cream. The reason I like making ice cream is because I don't use milk powder, "stabiliser", monostearate, etc like supermarket ices. The book recipes for "ice cream" DO use these things. Sadly, these ice creams are not gourmet delights. 

Pastry. Want to know about rolling technique? "Sheet it through the sheeter".  Oh sheet.

 

 

CarlSF wrote:
A book of this magnitude is bound to have errors or typos.

And in that knowledge, its very disappointing indeed that almost 6 months after publication, no one seems to know of an online site giving corrections.

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Interesting points in your post, dougal!

Regarding the "whole wheat" and "sourdough" terms used in the recipes: I know two local bakeries where I live that market themselves as "artisan bakeries". They're both making "whole wheat" and "sourdough" breads. Every sourdough bread that I've bought at these stores, contain some baker's yeast, at least according to the list of ingredients on the bags they package their breads in. It's cheating, I agree, but it's not unheard of in the world of "professional artisan bakeries". I believe Howard (here at TFL) has experimented with a "whole wheat" "sourdough" recipe from the Suas book. My bet is that baker's yeast is added to the final dough to improve consistency in the final proofing times. I guess, in these times of economic hardship and bailout packages, even artisan bakeries need to be pragmatic.

The same goes for the usage of "whole wheat"; even Hamelman, in his "Whole-wheat bread" recipe (p. 122) uses a meager 50% whole wheat flour (the rest is bread flour).

I do appreciate reading your points, dougal, but I'm still tempted by the book. As I mentioned, I'd be slightly more interested in the viennoiserie chapters than those on bread. Do you know any other books that are better than Suas' book on this? I'd like to hear any recommendations :-)

Thanks again!

edit: I just came across Bo Friberg's "The Professional Pastry Chef" at Amazon. It's published by Wiley (same as Hamelman's "Bread"), and spans over 1000 pages. Has anyone read this mammoth textbook?

dougal's picture
dougal

hansjoakim wrote:
... It's cheating, I agree, but it's not unheard of in the world of "professional artisan bakeries".

I think you've just defined the exact target market for Suas's book !!!

Which is what disappoints me after spending so much money on it.

 

 

Viennoiserie. Not really my thing, yet. It was with a view to moving beyond bread that I bought Suas's book. And I can't trust it.

Friberg's book has the reputation of being a reliable, if old-fashioned and tedious, reference work. It seems to have an established authority.

 

Of books that I have, I'd recommend Brettschneider's 'Baker'. Its a mixed bag of breads, lots of viennoiserie, some patisserie, a few cakes, and some unclassifiable things (like brioche "dessert pizza") which are the signature products of various Australian and New Zealand true artisan bakers. So, in spirit and concept, its a little like Glezer's Artisan Baking (which is bread, and rolls). And it has an introductory section focussed on ingredients and principally techniques. But, out of print, it seems to sell for lots of money second-hand.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Baker-International-Australian-Zealand-Professionals/dp/1877178799/

(I haven't seen Brettschneider's current 'International Baker' book.)

From the raves I've read, I think I'd like "Kaffeehaus" -

http://www.amazon.com/Kaffeehaus-Exquisite-Desserts-Classic-Budapest/dp/0609604538/

And I've wondered about "Paris Boulangerie Patisserie" -

http://www.amazon.com/Paris-Boulangerie-Patisserie-Thirteen-Outstanding-Bakeries/dp/0517224909/

Those three are all straight from the various bakers. Authenticity rather than school book.

mcs's picture
mcs

But I have read from it.  I have the Bo Friberg book and I use it as a strong reference often.  He does a great job of not only explaining the techniques well, but he also includes emergency substitutions and tips and tricks throughout the book that pertain to particular recipes.
Highly recommended. 

-Mark

http://thebackhomebakery.com

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

The Friberg book looks quite mouthwatering. Another one I recently discovered, is Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft by the Culinary Institute of America. Based on the table of contents and the pictures available at Amazon, it definitely looks interesting. I guess this would be a serious competitor to Suas' book. Any thoughts on this or other works by the CIA? Well, this CIA :)