The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, written by Peter Reinhart, was originally published in 2001 and this deluxe 15th Anniversary Edition was released last month. This award-winning book showcases the formation of bread from start to finish with tips, step-by-step photos, and a deeper look into the process to help even beginning bakers create bakery-style loaves in comfort of the home kitchen. The original 50 master formulas are included- Artos (Greek Celebration Breads), Casatiello (Italian Bread with Salami and Cheese), Ciabatta, Lavash Crackers, Pain à l’Ancienne, Pane Siciliano, Pizza Napoletana, Portuguese Sweet Bread, Stollen (Dresden Christmas Bread), Limpa (Swedish Rye) and more, along with three new ones (Sprouted Wheat and Brown Rice Bread, Sprouted Whole Wheat Onion and Poppy Seed Bialys, and Beyond Ultimate Cinnamon and Sticky Buns).
Peter Reinhart is known as one of the world’s leading authorities on bread. He co-founded the Brother Juniper’s Bakery and is now a full-time baking instructor at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the also author of eight other bread baking books, three of which are James Beard Award winners and host of the popular video website, PizzaQuest.com.
The book includes three main sections: One. What is it about Bread, Two. Deconstructing Bread: A Tutorial, and Three. Formulas. A list of the formulas are included in the contents section for easy reference.
I love the incredible amount of detail placed into this book, particularly the guide to the twelve stages of creating bread: mise in place, mixing, primary fermentation, punching down, dividing, rounding, benching, shaping and panning, proofing, baking, cooling, and storing and eating. There are even tutorials on how to improvise a proof box and replicate a professional hearth oven in the home kitchen. You will also get a variety of tips for success such as measuring ingredients for the most accurate results, how to choose flour and yeast, a guide to the equipment used to create bread, how to tell when the bread is ready to come out of the oven and eat, storage tips, and an overview of the baker’s math-formula system. The book ends with a valuable list of resources through books and websites to continue your bread baking journey.
The measurements for the formulas are provided in volume (teaspoons, tablespoons, cups) and weight (metric and imperial). Weight is the preferred measurement since a cup of flour often does not weigh the same from person to person. There are step-by-step guides for a variety of shapes such as boule (bowl), bâtard (torpedo), baguette, couronne (crown), dpi (sheaf of wheat), fendu (split), fougasse (ladder), tabatière (pouch), auvergnat (cap), pretzels, rolls, and so much more. The names of the formulas are provided in English and the original language where applicable.
The photography is provided by Ron Manville. In addition to the hundreds of step-by-step photos, many of the formulas have a high quality, beautifully styled photo of the finished product.
This book is a great pick for new and well-versed bakers alike. The formulas are well-written with clear instructions and a detailed insight into the baking process. As a note, most of the breads work with yeast (minus the one chemically leavened Corn Bread). While a few only need half to a full day to prepare, many of the formulas are a multi-day affair with multiple proofing times. Most of the ingredients are readily available in the average supermarket. Some that may be more difficult to locate include golden raisins, sprouted brown rice, powdered milk, diastatic barley malt powder, and durum flour. For those who already own an earlier edition of this book: the revised edition includes metric and temperature conversion charts, baker’s percentages, and updated methods.
English Muffins originated in England during the Victorian-era with an American version becoming popular through the British-born baker, Samuel Bath Thomas. These muffins are small, flattened rounds of yeast-leavened dough, quite different from the sweet, chemically leavened American muffin. For this recipe, they are cooked in both the skillet and the oven. They are perfect toasted with a variety of sweet and savory toppings or as the base for sandwiches and even mini pizzas. Evan preferred them simply with egg.
To create larger holes in the muffins, place a metal mixing bowl over the skillet while cooking the muffins to trap steam inside.
To slice the muffins, use a fork to pierce around the edges through to the middle and split in half.
The dough can also be used to make a loaf bread by placing in a lightly oiled loaf pan. Proof in the pan for 1-1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size, then bake in a 350 degrees F (177 C) oven until golden, 35-45 minutes.
If using active dry yeast, the yeast needs to first be activated in the milk at a temperature between 105-115 degrees F. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, until frothy, before mixing into the flour.
I also made the Pain de Campagne (Country French Bread) and Beyond Ultimate Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese Glaze.
Pain de Campagne is a French bread popular throughout France under a variety of local names. This formula makes three loaves so I got to try a few different shapes. This bread takes two days to make with multiple hands-on and proofing sessions, so a lazy day at home or weekend baking project is best. The instructions were spot on from shaping and proofing to baking using the double steam method to create a country-style crust with a light, hole-filled interior.
The Beyond Ultimate Cinnamon Buns take basic cinnamon rolls to the next level with a rich babka dough as the base. The recipe requires two days to make, but is so worth it. The dough is made on the first day and refrigerated overnight. While I made cinnamon buns, there are also instructions on how to turn the dough into sticky buns with Almond Honey or Caramel Glazes. The cinnamon buns can also be topped with a white fondant glaze.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own.
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
6 English Muffins
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces/284 grams) unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (0.25 ounce/7 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon (0.19 ounce/5 grams) salt
1 1/4 teaspoons (0.14 ounce/4 grams) instant yeast
1 tablespoon (0.5 ounce/14 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature or vegetable oil
3/4-1 cup (6-8 ounces/170-227 grams) milk or buttermilk at room temperature
Cornmeal for dusting
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and instant yeast. Mix in the butter and 3/4 cup of the milk until a dough comes together. If still crumbly, slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup milk to create a soft, pliable dough.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough to make a smooth, tacky (but not sticky) dough with a temperature of 77-81 degrees F (25-27 C). Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled large bowl, rolling to coat. Cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rest at room temperature until doubled in size, 1-1 1/2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment, then lightly grease with oil and dust with cornmeal. Wipe the work space with a damp cloth and add the risen dough. Divide into 6 equal pieces, each weighing 3 ounces (85 grams). Shape a piece into a ball and place on the prepared pan. Repeat with remaining pieces, arranging them 3 inches apart. Lightly spray the tops with oil, sprinkle lightly with cornmeal, and cover loosely with plastic or a kitchen towel. Allow to rest at room temperature for 1-1 1/2 hours, until swollen and nearly doubled in size.
Place a skillet or flat griddle over medium heat (350 degrees F/177 C). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 C) with the rack in the center.
Line another baking sheet with parchment. Lightly brush the heated skillet with oil. Use a metal spatula to gently transfer one of the rounds to the skillet. Add more rounds if there is space, at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Keep the remaining rounds on the baking sheet covered. Cook the rounds in the pan until the bottoms are a deep golden brown, 5-8 minutes. Flip the rounds over and cook the other side until deeply golden, another 5-8 minutes. Transfer the browned muffins to the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven for another 5-8 minutes to make sure the center is cooked through. While those are in the oven, grease the skillet again and repeat with remaining uncooked rounds.
Remove the baked muffins from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.