I was gifted the first edition back in 2006. This book lays a solid foundation for bread making. There''s a nice variety to the repertoire of bread offerings, and the book is appropriate for both beginners as well as more advanced bakers. This review constitutes my...
I was gifted the first edition back in 2006. This book lays a solid foundation for bread making. There''s a nice variety to the repertoire of bread offerings, and the book is appropriate for both beginners as well as more advanced bakers. This review constitutes my impressions of the how the new edition has been changed from its original edition.
I had the opportunity to bake the original challah recipe immediately followed by the new & improved 15th anniversary updated recipe. In comparing them directly, I found that there were two significant improvements to the new edition. The original recipe called for water in the range of 7-9 ounces, and I ended up having to make adjustments to the dough from having guessed wrong. The new recipe called for 7 ounces exactly, and the dough was perfect from the very start--like a gymnast sticking the landing to their routine. I loved working with the new recipe''s dough. After baking, I found that the original recipe yielded a nice dark golden brown crust, while the improved recipe was a beautiful deep mahogany tone more consistent with professionally made challah loaves that I have seen elsewhere. To me, this was a convincing start in appreciating these updated recipes, and I felt like a rainbow just appeared over my oven!
One of the weakest parts of the original edition was the sourdough method. The original procedure for creating a seed culture [the initial step] worked for me in a pass/fail sense, although I ended up needing one extra day to get the seed culture to double [working at about 70 degrees, which was right in the middle of his recommended temperature range (65F-75F)]. Reinhart has updated his method for this book, and it now includes an adaptation of the pineapple juice solution from his book “Whole-Grain Breads.” This is a positive step for the 15th anniversary edition. In comparison, I found the new procedure easier to use, and I had a working seed culture in a little under five days at about 69 degrees room temperature--which was one day earlier than my previous experience. I have been able to satisfactorily make Reinhart’s Basic Sourdough Bread and Poilane-Style Miche recipes without using any commercial yeast. Please see pictures below.
Since the original edition of this book, Reinhart has always taught two baker’s percentage methods, but it would seem that he originally had a preference for the method which expressed the pre-ferment as an ingredient. I was never very fond of this method myself, and I always ended up converting his figures into the other method. I am happy to say that Reinhart has edited the 15th anniversary edition to include both methods simultaneously. So, the book has been lengthened somewhat, and this represents a nice commitment on the part of Ten Speed Press, a publisher that I regard highly. As an added bonus, the book now includes metric measurements, in addition to ounces and measuring cups/tablespoons.
There were over one hundred recipe testers involved in the first edition, and this is not something that should be taken for granted. I’ve had very good success baking from this book. Bake times and temperatures have worked pretty well on the first try. In my extended family, I have seen that there is a great difference in home ovens. Reinhart writes, “No two ovens bake the same, so all baking times are approximate and based on conventional radiant-heat ovens (p. 38).” When I have rented a vacation home, I have enjoyed bringing this book along with me because Reinhart’s bake temperatures and times do well in an oven that I am not very familiar with. I believe the good results that I have experienced with this book have been a result of the extensive recipe testing.
In the original edition of this book, Reinhart teaches the double-steaming method—but he does have a prominent note about La Cloche, noting that “these are fun to use and do a great job of trapping moisture for a big oven spring and shine (p. 94).” I think there are a good many home bakers, including myself, who have come to the conclusion that La Cloche bakers (along with Dutch Ovens and inverted hotel pans on a baking stone) do a much superior job of trapping steam than any other techniques, including Reinhart’s method. Unless I’m missing something, it would appear that the note about baking cloches has been removed in the 15th anniversary edition. That’s unfortunate, because Reinhart influenced me to purchase a cloche--and I have never regretted it.
The book now includes a section on desired dough temperature calculations. Reinhart writes, “Although most of the instructions in this book provide the temperature for the liquid, feel free to calculate it yourself using this formula and adjust the liquid temperature as needed based on your temperature conditions and the mixing method you are using (p. 53).” Reinhart’s temperatures have worked well for me, so I don’t know how necessary this new information will be, but many other books include similar formulas.
There are three new formulas in this 15th anniversary edition: Sprouted Wheat and Brown Rice Bread (p. 291), Sprouted Whole Wheat Onion and Poppy Seed Bialys (p. 294), and Beyond Ultimate Cinnamon and Sticky Buns (p. 297). The Sprouted Wheat and Brown Rice Bread was very easy to make, and it turned out well technically--but the flavor wasn''t so compelling that I''d want to make it a second time, especially given that it requires special flour. Reinhart has a note that the Bialys can be made from bagel dough instead of the sprouted whole wheat flour, and that is the definite preference in our house. I will certainly make that recipe again, but only using the bagel dough. The Cinnamon Buns were well received at a holiday party that I took them to. I don''t think that these three recipes in and of themselves would be enough justification for someone with the first edition to purchase the book anew. However, 15 years have passed where the author got feedback on the original edition, and he definitely addressed some of the criticisms, such as the use of shortening. There are a few formula changes, but sometimes the differences in the recipes may come down to an improvement in the handling of the dough. I treasure baking enough of these recipes that having the latest edition of the recipes is worth it to me.
My enthusiasm level for this book is very high. Nevertheless, my experience has had some disappointments along the way. My first attempt at his Bagel recipe (p. 121) turned out so excellent that I decided bake his Cinnamon Raisin Bagel variation ( p. 127) two days later. Unfortunately, it turned out unsatisfactory. The first edition only specified 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, but the 15th anniversary edition was edited to also include the weight in both ounces and grams. There''s an assumption with this book that weights are more accurate and should be used whenever possible, as opposed to measuring cups and tablespoons. So, I used the 14g weight specified in the 15th anniversary edition and later found it to be way too much. Afterwards, I went back and measured out a tablespoon of cinnamon, only to find that it weighed only 4.7g. That''s very close to a 3X difference. In her book, "BakeWise" (p. 497), Shirley Corriher lists a teaspoon of ground cinnamon as weighing 2 g, thus implying a tablespoon weighs 6g. Rose Levy Beranbaum lists one tablespoon of cinnamon as weighing 6.5g on p. 572 of "The Bread Bible." Regardless of whether you accept Corriher, Beranbaum, or my weight measurement figures, the 14g/tablespoon from this recipe is way too high for this recipe. Given that cinnamon in relatively larger percentages retards yeast activity, the result is a compromised recipe. By using a tablespoon to measure the cinnamon--instead of using the weights--I''ve successfully made the Cinnamon Raisin Bagels, and my wife is quite fond of this recipe.
One of my few disappointments from the first edition was the Swedish Rye (Limpa) recipe. I felt that it was too aggressively spiced with ground aniseed, fennel and cardamom for my tastes. I always had it in the back of my mind to try it again by reducing the spices in half as a new starting point. In the first edition, these three spices are listed as requiring one teaspoon weighing 0.11 ounce each. In the 15th anniversary edition (p. 274), the ground aniseed is still listed as one teaspoon but the weight has changed to three times as much from the first edition! In other words, someone has made a typing mistake in preparing weight of the aniseed in the new edition. So, the conclusion of what I''m trying to tell you is that this book is not infallible. It''s in your best interest to have your calculator on hand to help verify the formulas before you start. I haven''t found a lot of mistakes with this book, but it has been necessary to talk about a few of its problems in order to present a convincing argument that you should double-check figures before you start. I do believe that the book is generally of a very high standard, although it is not perfect.
In conclusion, this has been a valued book in my collection, yielding many beloved recipes. It has also been influential of other authors. For these reasons, I consider the book to be a classic text, and I am grateful to have this 15th anniversary edition in my collection.
Pictures: I have uploaded eleven pictures, although they have not always displayed properly due to technical difficulties: Celebration Challah Loaf (p. 140); Knotted Roll made from White Bread, variation #2 (p. 286); Hot Dog Buns made from White Bread, variation #2 (p. 286); Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread with a cinnamon swirl and cinnamon sugar crust pan loaf (p. 154); pan loaf of Vienna Bread with special Dutch Crunch / Mottled topping (p. 280); the picture with the three slices are from left to right: 100% naturally-leavened Pain au Levain with raisins (a variation of Basic Sourdough Bread, p. 246), Whole-Wheat Bread (p. 288), and 100% naturally-leavened Poilane-Style Miche (p. 256); a slice of Marbled Rye Bread (p. 191); a plain Bagel (p. 121) next to a Bialys (p. 294); Cinnamon Raisin Bagels (p. 127) Cinnamon Buns finishing their bake in the oven (p. 150) and a Cinnamon Bun after icing.