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best bread cookbook s and equipment

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  • foodfirst Jan 31, 2002 11:47 AM
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I'm a complete novice but plan to leap into breadmaking, by necessity (moving to a near breadless, pizzaless country). Recommendations on a cookbook (I'm more into Italian-style breads than grainy/nutty breads)? I'll use a mixer w/doughhook. Should I get a breadstone?

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  1. For european rustic bread my favorite is(and i have quite a few bread making books) "Rustic european breads from your bread machine".
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASI...
    I think i baked at least half of the recipes there.
    Yes, i do have a bread machine, but use it only for kneading. So dont' be discouraged by the title. You don't need the bread machine at all. In this book it's used mostly to avoind a kneading mess, which is not a problem for you, since you have a mixer.

    1. This isn't a cookbook recommendation exactly, but for an incredible amount of good information and excellent recipes for authentic Italian breads, I recommend the following link:

      Link: http://www.theartisan.net

      1. I adore Nancy Silverton's books on La Brea Bakery Breads. Once you "jump in," I think you will find that NOT using the mixer w/doughhook (which I own but never use) while useful takes half the fun out of making bread: kneading. The kneading is the therapeutic and magical part of breadmaking. You learn more about the breads as it is worked under your hands. Don't cheat yourself out of this experience -- learn to knead.

        Better yet - learn it for yourself. Make a double-batch of dough. Knead one yourself and put the other in the machine. As you get good at kneading, you will find that the hand-kneaded bread really does taste better.

        1. The best Italian bread book that I have found,very home user friendly,is 'The Italian Baker',by Carol Field[Harper & Row].Patience,and a good hot oven will help-bread baking is an art,and takes practice.

          1. You might want to try Carol Field's "the Italian Baker". It is not just a bread book, but does have quite a lot of regional Italian bread recipes in it. I would respectfully disagree with the suggestion to get Silverton's Breads from the Labrea Bakery. While in many respects it is a great book and you'd learn a lot, in my opinion it is not for novices. It requires virtually a full time committment to bread baking to execute the recipes, i.e. 2 weeks to grow sourdough starter from wild yeast. I'd get started with a simpler book. Also definitely get a baking stone.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rjka

              ditto rjka and mks suggestions. I have been very happy with the product from the Italian Baker recipes.

              Some of the best recipes are for wet dough breads, and the taste and texture of the finished bread is very authentic.

              I agree that hand kneading is very satisfying, but getting the dough started in the mixer with the dough hook is very helpful. then take it out and knead by hand (without adding too much additional flour) till the consistency is right.

              If you dontwant to invest in the stone, quarry tiles are cheap and work just fine.

            2. I've baked bread for many years and own dozens of break-baking books.

              In my opinion, a beginner would do well to get the Dworkins' "Bake Your Own Bread and Be Healthier" because its subtitle is "A bas le mystique," or down with the mystique.

              I find Field somewhat off-putting, especially her rather complicated "biga"-based breads.

              Cookbook authors all have a different "sound," and, for some reason, Field always sounds scolding and impatient to me! To some extent, Child also has a tone that is too order-giving (my way or the highway!) and she often overcomplicates things and makes it difficult for the novice to cope. Her baguette from Mastering the Art was fine if overly complicated in the rising instructions. (Now there is equipment to simplify some of that which didn't exist when it came out years ago!)

              I recently purchased but have not yet tried a concoction that has a steamer base for making French-style breads.

              I use different books for different types of bread. Only time can tell you which will work best for you, but I do believe beginners should start out with something that takes them by the hand a bit.

              If the Londons' Bread Winners books are still around, I highly recommend them. They're a collection of recipes by accomplished home bakers and offer many different approaches and ideas.

              Clayton is not quite as reliable as his reputation would indicate, though his pain au levain in the French book is the best of all the recipes I've tried.

              I use sourdough for certain breads--my starter is 21 years old and I started it myself from flour, milk, and air!

              I also highly recommend Casella's "A World of Breads" if it's still in print.

              I regularly check out all the new bread-baking books and find myself returning over and over to the old reliables with just the occasional addition, such as "The Jewish Baker."

              I started out baking by hand but switched to the KitchenAid many years ago. Kneading is fine if you have the space and the hand/wrist strength, thoug some doughs are a heckofa lot easier than others to handle.

              1. I recommend Beth Hensperger's books--"Beth's Basic Breads" or "Bread Made Easy". (Her "Bread Bible" is a compilation of recipes from her shorter books without the illustrations which are a big help. Don't start with that one.) She's a very thorough teacher. The recipes and directions are unpretentious.

                1 Reply
                1. re: raj1

                  Hensperger's bread machine book is great, so if her others are as good, it's probably a great choice.

                2. Carol Field's "The Italian Baker" is one of the most useful cookbooks I own. I haven't made a lot of her regular loaf breads, but her flat bread recipes are the best I've found anywhere. Try her gorgonzola focaccia or one of her pizzas. They're really easy to make and absolutely delicious.

                  A breadstone is a terrific investment. I keep my in the oven all the time because it seems to improve its performance on just about any task.

                  1. Two more great bread cookbooks are Bread Alone by Daniel Leader and The Village Baker by Joe Ortiz.

                    Also, a very inexpensive but excellent (lots of pictures) basic bread cookbook is Sunset's Breads: Yeast & Quick, Sweet & Savory, Bread-Machine Basics. It's available at Barnes and Noble.

                    1. I think what you like as a cookbook depends a lot on your approach. I own half a dozen classics. No one of them fully satisfies me. I like to understand the why and how and leave recipes behind. So I'd suggest you get some of these from a library, take a look, and then decide. My all-around favorites are Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking Across America, Rhinehart's Bread Baker's Apprentice, and now Jeff Hamelman's book, but I still go back to Ortiz often. And perhaps for Italian breads, he has the most to offer a beginner.

                      Equipment? Some sort of a bread stone or tile is a must, and a good cast iron pan for steaming up your oven. I've used quarry tiles and oven tiles, but for many uses an unglazed terra cotta garden "saucer" works superbly and costs a lot less money. Bread cloches wonderful to bake under, but a terra cotta bulb pot with the saucer for a lid works equally well for a fraction of the cost.

                      So my recommendation is to start simply--say following a single recipe like Marcella Hazan's in her Essentials of Classic Italian cooking. Once you get the feel of dough in your hands, then just follow where it leads you. Happy baking!

                      1. How 'bout the old Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book? It was from her description that I came to understand exactly what kneading does for bread, and just what a properly-kneaded whole wheat dough is supposed to look and feel like.

                        Your best pieces of bread-making equipment are a big, strong fork, a bench scraper, and your hands. I have tried kneading dough in my Kitchen Aid mixer with its dough hooks. I'm never happy with it. It doesn't knead evenly. Use your hands. Set a timer for ten minutes and don't look at it again.

                        1. Suzanne Dunaway's book "No Need to Knead" might be a good fit for you. It focuses on Italian-style breads and pizza dough made by stirring either by hand or with a mixer. Obviously not the top choice for those who subscribe to the "kneading as therapy" school of thought, but good if you want tasty breads without too much effort.

                          1. I bought Rick Curry's "Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking" years ago and love it. He is a one-armed Jesuit who makes a huge variety of breads - from the simple to the special. All the recipes are well-written and turn out very well. It's avail at Amazon for $13 - I would definitely consider adding it to your cookbooks!

                            1. Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" is my favorite bread book, closely followed the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook.

                              The King Arthur Baking Circle website is a great online community of passionate bakers, who can and will answer any question you have about any kind of baking with interest and experience. Their archives are an amazing source.

                              1. If you live near a Costco, you can buy a lifetime supply of active dry yeast for $2.99. I know it won't last more than a few months at most, but I've been going through yeast so quickly that it was cheaper than buying it elsewhere, even if it does go bad. I wish I had people to share it with.

                                I'd recommend a pizza stone or some kind of stone and a cast iron pan for steam. That's all the extra equipment you really need.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: chowser

                                  Active dry yeast can be frozen for up to two and a half years with no ill effects. Just use straight from the freezer. I am still using yeast I bought in 2004 or 2005. I got it at the local restaurant supply place, in (I think) a five lb sack. Could have been three lbs.

                                  1. re: AnnaEA

                                    I have it in the refrigerator but I'll move it to the freezer. Thanks for the hint!

                                2. Thanks Hounds, this is great.

                                  I do have one question that maybe seasoned sour dough-er can answer.
                                  A couple of years ago I made a starter to try my hand at sourdough. Every time I made a loaf I got almost no rise. It was very dense and usually very moist inside. What was I doing wrong??

                                  DT

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    I found that sourdough worked best when I set a sponge and let it sit overnight before making bread. Don't know if you did that or not.

                                    My starter was always made from the basic recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook. Very easy, but quite good and lively.