The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The good book

Eidetix's picture

The good book

I recently posted this review of "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" on Amazon. Forgive me for adding to the reams of text devoted to this indispensable book here at TFL. I'm only hoping to steer fellow demi-virgins toward a great beginner's guide, and to show appreciation to Professor Reinhart for the quality of his guidance.

As I write this, two gorgeous loaves of French bread are minutes away from going into the oven. The formula for creating those loaves and the know-how behind their creation is drawn entirely from Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice."

I am a novice baker who has been banging out three or four batches of delicious bread per week for the last six weeks using this marvelous book. The author is a master craftsman with a commendable gift for explaining the bread-making process in simple, no-nonsense terms. His message throughout is that newcomers do not need any special knowledge or expensive equipment to produce delectable breads in home kitchens. Take this review as testimonial: Reinhart is right on the money.

The BBA layout reinforces the tone of the writing: smart, elegant and easy to follow. You can browse the front end of the book, which explains the science of bread-making in terms a technophobe can easily swallow. Or you can skip to the recipes, labeled formulas herein to emphasize the chemistry that is fundamental to the craft -- and you will in short order be making some of the best bread you've ever eaten, be it French or Italian, sourdough or ciabatta, cornbread or cinnamon raisin.

This book is considered a Bible among aficionados of bread-making at the Fresh and elsewhere. Reinhart is seen as something of a prophet. Get this book and you too will become an acolyte. Buy "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" today and get in on the fun!

arlo's picture

Thats funny because I consider 'the good book', my bakeries temp logs from the past five years. It holds all the water temps needed for when the flours were at certain temps and what temp the bakery and outside environment was as well.

But thanks for the write up. You know I haven't even baked that many loaves from BBA yet either. Perhaps I should revisit it, that is if I wasn't so caught up with Tartine.

msbreadbaker's picture

Just rec'd my copy of the Tartine book and have a question regarding the initial starter to be used in his recipes. Since most I've looked at so far only call for a Tablespoon of starter, would I have any problem using my excellent Peter Reinhart's starter made according to PR's directions? I have had very good luck with it so far. I was thinking I could use it for the 1 Tablespoon without any problems with the rest of the recipe instead of starting from scratch. Any advice would be appreciated.

Also, if anyone had read this book, (Tartine) did they have any problem with the story about the guy starting the restaurant, no bread making experience, uses the techniques in the book and right away is turning out 40 loaves a day with no problems. The pic of the bread in the oven showed them to be so tight together I don't see how they baked properly and then the guy managed to work in surfing too! Starting a new restaurant, baking 40 loaves a day and surfing, my, my.

Anyway, here's to more good bread baking. Jean P. (VA)


Leolady's picture

Thanks for letting me know it is a good one for a raw beginner.

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

The best judgement we can pass on any baking book is how often we go back to them for recipes or to review concepts and information. It doesn't matter if we've bought the book- I believe you can't have too many cookbooks, or borrowed them from the local library- let us all praise interlibrary loans right now.

The librarians here in Leavenworth, KS are starting to know me by name since I'm requesting a loan of one bread book or another at least once a month. One librarian insists that I bring in my ribbons to prove that I did indeed win at the county fair. I told Monica that I would have to win again to prove it wasn't just coincidence before I show off any ribbons.

Currently, I have "Artisan Baking", "Artisan Breads", and "Laurel's Kitchen'", all on loan, next to my favorite reading chair. They're on top of the books by Hamelman, Hitz, and Sheehy. Who said that retirement at 60 would be boring? I know it wasn't me.

madruby's picture

Hi Postal Grunt,

I read that you have a book by Hitz.  Is it the Baking Artisan Breads?  I am debating whether I should buy Hitz (over P.R. BBA) just bcuz I got P.R. Artisan Breads Everyday recently (and LOVE it...cannot recommend it enough, especially to newbies such as myself) and I wanted to try out another author.  Baking has become an obsessive joy and pleasure!

Anyone else has any suggestions?  Tks.

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

"Baking Artisan Breads" is a useful book in that his teaching style is aimed at helping his readers start with a specific style of bread, then learning to make variations from the starting point loaf. The book isn't a scholarly study or classroom textbook. If you want the textbook, then Hamelman's "Bread" should be on your shortlist of possible buys.

His recipes are clearly written out for a beginner to follow and the more experienced baker to zip right through. Mr. Hitz doesn't try to be too avant-garde in his techniques and most bakers posting here will feel comfortable using them. He has also posted some YouTube clips including one on shaping loaves that was mentioned in a posting within the last 30 days or so.Use the search function at the top of the page to find the link to the clip. It's worth watching.

I should also mention that the recipes are developed for using Instant Dry Yeast. I don't recall seeing more than a brief recognition of sourdough starters but that shouldn't stop you from taking a look at the book at your local library or purchasing your own copy. Once you've gotten your ideas from the book, you'll always find help here on TFL to adapt the recipe to a sourdough recipe.

LindyD's picture

I have this book and think Master Baker Hitz does an excellent job educating new bakers.  He discusses the basics of equipment and techniques, the ten steps of baking, and emphasizes the importance of mise en place.  It's the first step in each of his formulas and hopefully will establish that good habit in every reader.

Each of his formulas is explained clearly and cleanly - the book includes a DVD where he demonstrates stretch and fold, preshaping, shaping, scoring, etc. techniques.  The formulas include variations on the theme.  For example, the baguette formula includes instructions for baguettes, as well as an epi, scroll and breadsticks from the same formula.  You can read the table of contents at Amazon.

The photographs (all in color) are instructive and include three very nice photos showing stages of gluten development in a windowpane test.

The book does not touch upon sourdough, which is probably just as well for someone just getting started with baking bread.  

Anyone who purchases it should check the errata at BreadHitz in case their copy does not include those corrections.

madruby's picture

Impatient me....I couldn't wait to get the feedback so I went ahead and purchased the book anyway.  I am glad that his book will be a good purchase based on your comment above.  Once I've had the chance to bake a few of his recipes, I will report back.  Cheers.

LindyD's picture

I think you'll like the DVD, too.  Just make sure to check out that errata.