Recently, everyone has been waxing lyrical, with good reason, I should add, about Elagins and Norm's new book "Inside the Jewish Bakery". I have also bought the book, and found it to be a well-researched, excellent book, that should be on any serious baker's bookshelf. That said, a few other good books has been published very recently. These books were not by names that were familiar to me, and I was very pleasantly surprised by them, so I decided to review them here.
The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking (by the French Culinary Institute).
This book is not the work of one person, but of the master bread bakers at the FCI. It has been ghost-written by Judith Choate, and the gorgeous photographs are by Matthew Septimus. This book came out of the bread-baking program at the FCI, and is intended for a wide audience, from professional bakers to home enthusiasts. The book is a self-contained to bread baking. The book is divided into twelve session, which I discuss below.
The first seven sessions comprise roughly a quarter of this large book and discuss the theory of bread making. You won't find explanations of bread science here, but you will find other useful material. There is a good account of bread ingredients and their functions. Again, I have seen more detailed explanations, but these are quite good. The list of ingredients is quite comprehensive, covering even some more obscure bread making ingredients such as soy flour and raisin juice concentrate. Among the sessions are also explanations of bread-making processes, of sourdough and preferments, and, of course, baker's percentages.
While there are some agreed conventions to BP (e.g. flour = 100%), there are many variations. In this book, all recipes are accompanied by BP. The convention this book uses is that every portion of the dough receives its own set of BP. For example, if a recipe contains a soaker, a biga, and the final dough, the amount of flour for each of the components will be 100%. I prefer the Hamelman system of BP myself, but the system in this book is clear enough.
The final five chapters of the book contain formulas (called "demonstrations" in this book) for many breads. The chapters are for French breads, Italian breads, German and Middle-European breads, Advanced bread formulas, and Gluten-Free formulas. The recipes are all very clear and consistent. Each recipe begins with its name, yield, time-to-make, kneading method, and desired dough temperature. Then, there is a list of ingredients. The ingredients are specified in metric and imperial units. There are no volumetric measurements in the book (a big plus, in my opinion). The overall weight of each portion of the dough, as well as the final dough, is listed as well. There is also a list of equipment required for each recipe (from scale to cooling rack). Following these are the instructions. The recipe instructions are very clear. The one thing the recipes are missing is a short blurb for each recipe -- I would have liked to read a little bit about the recipes.
The formulas really cover a great variety of breads. They are very interesting. Most are accompanied by beautiful pictures. In a few cases there are also some step photos. For example, in the recipe for Pain Normand (a French bread containing apples) there is a series of pictures showing the instructor thinly slicing an apple, brushing the loaves with cider, and topping them with the apple slices.
The French chapter covers many types of French breads one would expect to find in a bread book: several baguette formulas, pain de mie, pain au cereales, fougasse aux olives, pain viennois, brioche, and even a rye bread (with 65% rye flour out of the total amount of flour). They also have a pain de campagne that they call "bordelaise". Similarly, the Italian chapter contains many Italian bread formulas: ciabatta, focaccia, carta di musica, pugliese, pane toscano, pizza, and more. There are also formulas for some sweeter breads here, such as panettone and pane al cioccolata.
The two most exciting chapters are the ones about German breads and advanced breads. The German breads chapter contains an interesting array of German and related breads. Of the 22 formulas in these chapter, 4 are adapted from Hamelman's "Bread", with credit given (40% sourdough rye, sourdough rye with walnut (this has excellent photos here), whole wheat and rye sourdough, and 66% sourdough bread). There both wheat and rye breads here, from pretzels and bagels, to vichgauer, krauterquarkbrot and an excellent-sounding leinsamenbrot. There are also a couple of sweet breads here: kugelhopf and stollen, both complete with mouthwatering photographs. The recipe I am most intrigued by is the one for a German fruit bread I have never seen before; the recipe is for 2 kg of dough, three quarters of which are a mixture of dried fruit! Sadly, this bread is one for which there are no pictures.
The advanced bread chapter contains 14 bread that did not fit in any of the previous chapters. I can't say that any of these is ultra complex or anything, but this is a nice selection. This chapter contains the highlights of this book for me: some recipes by Didier Rosada. I have heard so many good things about this baker, and I am waiting for him to publish a book. If the his formulas in this chapter are any indication, I will be the first in line to get such a book if it ever becomes real. Anyhow, some of the intriguing recipes in this chapter are millet bread, a 90% whole-wheat bread with walnuts, a molasses rye bread, and a rye and whole wheat bread with seeds.
The final chapter contains a few formulas for gluten-free breads. I am not too interested in these breads, so I don't have much to say about this chapter.
Overall, this is an excellent bread baking book, containing a wide variety of formulas. There is something here for everyone: the white-bread baker, the French bread baker, the whole-grain baker, the rye enthusiast, and more. I highly recommend it.
How to make Bread (by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou)
When I saw the name of this book's author, I was perplexed. Who is he? Where is he from? To me, Emmanuel sounded French, so I thought this would be a book about French bread baking. Thankfully, was I wrong. The author is South-African who trained in a German-style bakery. He is currently in the UK. His breads have won several awards.
The intended audience for this book is the home baker. The recipes are scaled accordingly to make usually a single loaf. (If I have one criticism of this book is that several recipes make a very small loaf, requiring a 4x6 loaf pan, which is quite uncommon). The book contains all the information one needs to know about bread baking, and makes an excellent book for both the beginning baker and the seasoned baker.
Hadjiandreou begins the book with a brief introduction to bread baking: some information about ingredients, and a little about techniques. There is also an explanation of sourdough, essential to the later chapters. After the quick introduction we jump straight to the recipes. There are four chapters of recipes: "Basics & other yeasted breads", "Wheat-free or gluten-free breads", "sourdoughs" and "pastries & sweet treats". All of the recipes are accompanied by many beautiful pictures, both of the completed recipe as well as step photos. The photographer really did a great job here, as the book is a joy to look at. The recipes contain a short blurb about each recipe, the recipe yield and baking tin size if applicable, and a list of ingredients. The ingredients are given by metric weight (first) and also by the American volume system. There are no imperial measurements (not a great loss). The recipe instructions refer to the various step photos (not every step has a photo).
The first recipe is for a "simple white bread" with two variations: malt loaf and whole-wheat loaf. This is just a simple loaf for learning, containing just flour, water, salt, and yeast. This recipe introduces the reader to the kneading style of this book. Here the kneading is done in my favorite method: 10 second kneads, in the bowl, spaced 10 minute apart. Really, the best kneading method in my opinion. This recipe ends with a beautiful picture comparing the three variations. There are other interesting breads in this chapter such as a multigrain seeded bread, a focaccia, an olive and herb bread, a beer bread, bagels, tsoureki, and more.
The second chapter is very exciting for me, as it contains several recipes for rye breads. This chapter begins with a beautiful photographs of rye dough being mixed by a wooden spoon in a large bowl. The various breads in this chapter are a dark rye bread, a prune and pepper rye bread, raisin rye bread, wholegrain rye bread, spelt bread, and more. Even though this is not the sourdough chapter, the recipes do require a rye sourdough. One shortcoming of this chapter is that several recipes require "hot water", but the exact temperature is not specified.
The sourdough chapter contains a variety of sourdough breads: a white sourdough, a wholegrain sourdough, a whey sourdough, tomato sourdough, beetroot sourdough (gorgeously purple), caraway-rye sourdough, fig-walnut-and anise sourdough, multigrain sunflower bread, and more. Most breads in this chapter do not require any yeast.
The final chapter in the book is for pastries and treats. Here you will find croissants (and various preparations with this dough, such as pain au chocolat and copenhagens), brioche, hot cross buns, marzipan stollen, and even a poppyseed stollen I must make soon.
This book really contains a great variety of recipes, including some German bread recipes. I am definitely going to try his rye bread soon. This book is a great book for beginners, with all the wonderful, well-done, step photos. It also contains a large number of advanced bread formulas for advanced bakers, and many breads that you won't find anywhere else (prune and pepper rye breads). Several of the recipes in this book have won various awards. This book definitely deserves a prominent place in any baker's bookshelf.