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 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). I will also be sharing his recipe for English Muffins following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
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 Bread Baker’s Apprentice
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.
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.
Looking for more fun bread recipes?
- Fødselsdagsboller (Danish Birthday Buns)
- Khabizgina (Ossetian Cheese and Potato Bread)
- Pampushky (Ukrainian Garlic Bread)
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 Recipe
Excerpt from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
- 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces, 284 grams) unbleached bread flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (0.25 ounces, 7 grams) granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon (0.19 ounces, 5 grams) salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoons (0.14 ounces, 4 grams) instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces, 14 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature, or vegetable oil
- 3/4-1 cup (6-8 fl ounces, 170-227 grams) milk or buttermilk at room temperature
- Cornmeal for dusting
- Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Stir in (or mix in on low speed with the paddle attachment) the butter (or oil) and 3/4 cup (6 ounces, 170 grams) milk until the ingredients form a ball. If there is still loose flour in the bowl, dribble in some of the remaining 1/4 cup milk. The dough should be soft, tacky, and pliable, not stiff.
- Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed with the dough hook). Knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes (or mix for about 8 minutes), sprinkling in more flour if needed to make a tacky, but not sticky, dough. It should pass the windowpane test and register 77˚F to 81˚F (25˚C to 27˚C). Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
- Ferment at room temperature for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
- Wipe the counter with a damp cloth and transfer the dough to the counter. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces of 3 ounces (85 grams) each. Shape the pieces into small balls. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment, mist the parchment lightly with spray oil, and dust with cornmeal. Transfer the dough balls to the sheet pan, spacing them about 3 inches (8 cm) apart. Mist them lightly with spray oil, sprinkle them loosely with cornmeal, and cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a towel.
- Proof at room temperature for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the pieces nearly double in size and swell both up and out.
- Heat a skillet or flat griddle to medium (350˚F/177˚C if you have a thermometer setting). Also, preheat the oven to 350˚F (177˚C) with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
- Brush the pan or griddle with vegetable oil or mist with spray oil. Uncover the muffin rounds, then slide a metal spatula under a round and gently transfer it to the pan. Add more rounds the same way, spacing the rounds at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Cover the rounds still on the sheet pan with plastic wrap or a towel to prevent them from developing a skin. The dough rounds will flatten in the hot pan and spread slightly and then they will puff somewhat. Cook the round for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the bottoms cannot cook any longer without burning. The bottoms should be a rich golden brown; they will brown quickly but will not burn for a while, so resist the temptation to turn them prematurely or they will fall when you flip them over. Using a metal spatula, carefully flip each one over and cook on the other side for 5 to 8 minutes in the same manner. Both sides will now be flat.
- When the dough seems as if it cannot endure any further cooking without burning, transfer the pieces to a sheet pan and place the pan in the oven (don't wait for the still uncooked pieces, or the ones just out of the pan will cool down and will not respond to the oven stage). Bake for 5 to 8 minutes to ensure that the center is baked. Meanwhile, return to the uncooked pieces and cook them, then bake them, as you did the first batch.
- Transfer the baked English Muffins to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving.