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1.29.2011

Review: Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day

I may have mentioned that I've been baking bread lately:) Almost all of the bread I have baked lately has been from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. So I thought I would share my opinion on the book and my view on it's place in our nutritional culture.

In short, I'm pretty happy with this book. I think it is the logical progression of the "no knead" baking movement. This is NOT a no knead book- but it does utilize some techniques that reduce the need to knead (hehe) and at the same time improve the texture and result when baking whole grain breads (this is because the less you handle whole grain dough the less of a chance the sharp pieces of bran and the like have to sever the gluten strands, which give the bread it's structure). Since I bake primarily with whole wheat flour I appreciate his methods... and there are THREE 100% whole wheat recipes in this book, as well as several partial whole wheat/whole grain recipes and directions to make most of the others from some or all whole wheat. That's my kind of book.

Why should you check this book out if you're already having success with a no knead recipe? Obviously no-knead recipes are also great for whole wheat loafs for the reasons listed above. I don't know why YOU would want to switch, but I can tell you why I did.

  1. Kneading was never really a burden to me. So while I appreciated the ease of no knead recipes, I kind of miss a little kneading. And this book provides just that- a little kneading. Hardly any at all if you have a mixer with a dough hook, but still some.
  2. I never mastered handling the super wet dough that results from the no-knead recipe. But I think that the high hydration level is one of the keys to the recipes' success. This book shows you how to create firmer and (usually) easier to work with doughs that still have high hydration levels
  3. I never bought a no knead book (I checked out both Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and No Need to Knead from the library, but didn't read either cover to cover) so I may have missed it, but I never found a no knead recipe for soft whole wheat sandwich bread. And while I LOVED the bread I made with the no knead recipe, my husband and children craved something that was more conducive to making toast and PB sandwiches. This book contains a GREAT 100% whole wheat sandwich bread recipe.

I think this would be a great book for beginning bakers as well. While most of the recipes take a little longer than most no knead recipes, the book includes great details concerning the ingredients, the look and feel of the dough, and mixing and baking procedures. If you're interested in learning to bake bread not only as a basic way to feed your family but also because of the fulfillment and satisfaction of feeling and kneading the dough, this would be a great book to choose. Another reason I would recommend this book to beginners is because of it's breadth- It covers most of the basics- sourdough, basic hearth and rustic breads, pizza dough, sandwich loafs, bagels, biscuits, english muffins, enriched breads like challah and brioche, and a variety of sweet breads like cinnamon rolls and coffee cake.

In summary- if you're tired of basic no knead bread, check this book out. If you're a beginner looking for something a little more fulfilling than no knead, check this book out. If you love baking bread and compulsively buy books about baking bread... well, I probably don't need to tell you to buy this book:)

Oh, and before I forget...

Free recipes from Artisan Breads Every Day, courtesy the book's publisher

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