Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What I'm Reading: Bread Matters

Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley has recipes, but I'd have a hard time classifying it as a cookbook. The recipes don't start until chapter six, which is about 140 pages into the book. The first part of the book is history, ingredients, techniques, nutrition, and a whole lot more.

There's a whole lot of science in the book, but I do have a little quibble with some of the conclusions the author makes from the science. He goes a little further than I'm comfortable when he moves from correlation to cause-and-effect. He might be correct, but I tend to be a little more cautious.

But that's not a terrible flaw. You can read the science and draw your own conclusions. But in the end, the book is about making better bread. So whether or not you believe that store-bought bread is bad for you or not, the truth is that home-baked bread is probably going to taste better.

The book is also Euro-centric, so he'll often say "This is what it's like here... and in America, it's that." It's a small world and there aren't that many differences that we need to worry too much about, though.

I do agree with Whitley that a long rise makes a better bread. He does give some instructions for speeding up the process to about three hours, which is reasonable. I haven't made any of his breads yet, but they look like they'd work well.

He's got quite a number of basic breads, and then later in the book, he uses some of those breads as the base for breads with additional ingredients or slightly different techniques. I'm not sure yet what I think of that. On the one hand, it shows that the same recipe can become a number of different things. But on the other hand, treating them as completely different recipes means you'll start in one part of the book and have to flip back to se how to make the base dough. It might be easier to work with if all the recipes that used one base were grouped together, but you'd still be flipping pages to get there.

At this point, I've read the first chunk of the book and many of the recipes, and I've got to say that I'm probably going to read it again and refer to it often. I'm already picking out a couple recipes that look interesting, and thinking about playing with some of the techniques in the book.


Natalie Pozniak said...

I might need to pick this book up... I have been trying to cook some of your recipes but I seem to fail each time. My bread never rises as much as your does... any suggestions?

Donna Currie said...

If it's not rising enough before it goes into the oven, then the answer is more time, or a little warmer environment. If you're not getting enough oven spring, you can try boosting the oven temperature by about 25 degrees as soon as it goes into the oven so you're sure the temperature is cycling up. Then bring it back to where it belongs after the first ten minutes or so.

Natalie Pozniak said...

Great thank you! I will let you know how it works.

Anonymous said...

I've seen this book in the library, but passed it in favor of others. Perhaps a secon look is in order. Thanks!

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