Monday, March 8, 2010

A Book Review...

Two of my favorite hobbies (and chores) are cooking and baking.  Another favorite, not surprisingly, is reading cook books.  They feed off each other nicely.  I don’t get too many complaints from my family, although I know my mother wishes that “cleaning” was a little closer to the top of the list :j.  Cookies, cakes, quick breads, and most other baked goods have been within my skill mastery for a long time.  But somehow bread, regular old yeast bread, always alluded me.  It didn’t even matter if I only had to bake it- I still managed to mess it up.  If involved yeast, I had to pass it by (with one delicious exception, but that’s another post.)
    Enter Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I came across this cookbook in the USCCA e-Newsletter a few months ago.  The review said it told how to make a bread dough you could store in the refrigerator, then pull out when you wanted bread.  Sounded good, but considering my previous relationship with yeast bread, I passed the email onto my mom, knowing that she would probably find it more useful than I would.  (My mom makes the best 100% whole wheat bread in the whole world, by the way.)  She thought it looked interesting, and got the brilliant idea of renting it from the library.  After reading, I decided to try my hand at a batch.  It turned out perfect.
    The recipes in the book range from crusty french bread, to pitas, to pizza, to rich brioche.  They are really easy to make, at least the ones we have tried, and really versatile.  The Master Recipe is for boule, a crusty round loaf of bread.  It only has four ingredients, and mixes up in about ten minutes.  There is no kneading, instead the bread is allowed to rise until it falls and then refrigerated.  The recipe itself is exact (no “4-6 cups of flour”, ONE part of yeast recipes that always killed me,) but still forgiving.  And this one bread dough makes really good:
round loaves
and probably a few other things I haven’t tried yet.  My other favorite recipe in the book is the braided challah, which I have also used for hamburger buns, raisin bread, and, just today, really yummy caramel pecan rolls. 
    I admit, I have had a few mess-ups.  The recipes using whole wheat flour did not work well for us, but that may be because we are used to the aforementioned best-in-the-world whole wheat bread, and because we mill our own flour.  I also have made some mistakes in measuring due to a really noisy kitchen, and I’ve completely forgotten to put a few batches of bread away after their rise and fall.  This isn’t a problem with the master recipe, which I have let sit over night without problems, but it is NOT good when there is eggs in the bread, like the challah or the chocolate bread. 
    So that is the review for my new favorite cookbook.  Check your library and try it out.  If you are considering purchasing it through Amazon, they will give me a tiny percentage if you order through the link on the little widget.  Kind of a nice deal- I get a good picture of the book and a little extra change, and you don’t have to go searching for it.  I have mixed feelings about Amazon.  I love it because I can find what I need so easily, but at the same time it bugs me because I know I should hunt local a little more.  Of course not everyone has a local bookstore, and Amazon has small stores...I think the best thing about Amazon is the product reviews.  You get a variety of opinions, and sometimes really good advice.  Do the pros outweigh the cons?  Depends on the product. Am I rambling?  Sorry.  Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. This is from the Mom who "makes the best 100% whole wheat bread in the whole world." Every once in a while you get a craving for hard crusty bread to go with that salad or spaghetti and the bread described above is just that. The best part of this is that the family is not dependent on me making all the bread and it has gone so far that my 13 year old son can now make this bread also, enough said-I won't ramble.