Book Review by Sapphire Ng
Ten Speed Press
Copyright September 2016
The Bread Baker's Apprentice makes a perfect gift for the serious baker. Immensely instructive and practically methodical, this book is an authoritative guide to bread baking. Lucidly written and easily understandable, along with easy-to-follow and clearly presented formulas and instructions, the book will lead both the novice and the more seasoned baker onto the path of an incredible learning experience.
The book contains a multitude of “master formulas” for an eclectic variety of bread. The passionate baker will be thrilled to discern the subtleties in techniques and skills involved in making for example, the visually dramatic Greek celebration bread artos, the delectable and mouth-watering cinnamon buns and sticky buns, the very appetizing Italian breadsticks, the quintessential bagel, the traditional panettone, and certainly, the sourdough bread, otherwise called wild-yeast bread.
The book begins by aptly covering fundamental information pivotal to the baker and reader's optimal assimilation of materials accompanying the bread formulas furnished. Not to mention the information serves as a great supplement to the education of the baking or culinary student. The author for example, purposefully guides the reader through a practical examination of each of the classic 12 stages of baking—including primary fermentation, punching down/degassing, rounding, benching, proofing, and baking.
The author elucidates crucial and fascinating concepts sans unnecessary technicality, describing for example, the antithetical concepts of dough extensibility versus elasticity; explicating the critical processes of starch gelatinization, sugar caramelization, and protein coagulation; distinguishing the sourdough from regular bread; expounding the process of fermentation; explaining the subtleties of degassing; and of course, rationalizing the use of instant yeast over the alternatives of fresh or active dry yeast.
As a reference for both amateur and experienced bakers, the book also includes rudimentary material such as the classifications of bread, concisely presented in a highly structured diagram, or the types of flour. In line with the author's profession and job of being an educator and baking instructor, the book contains valuable wisdom in the form of the occasional pieces of pithy heuristics—for example the cardinal principle of “flavor rules.”
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review.