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Sep 14, 2006 12:06 AM

Charlie Van Over

Anyone here use his "Best Bread Ever" book?

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  1. The title, like Mark Bittman's title, may be over the top, but the book isn't. I pray for the day that Charlie comes out with a promised revised addition. I learned to bake with this book. The food processor method, besides being convenient for people with limited counter space or limited time for kneading, makes superior bread, because the dough is not oxidized in the kneading. The only problem I have had with it was with brioche doughs, which my processor did not handle well. I have given away at least eight copies of this book. I snap it up every time I can find it in a used book store. I highly recommend it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Father Kitchen

      Me too. I just found a copy online and gave it to my parents for Christmas. Now they're making bread every weekend. Have you ever tried to make the babka? I can't seem to get it right.

      1. re: Father Kitchen

        Hey, FK, how are you doing?

        What is the full reference for the book? If you bake by it, I'm going to try it.

        Cheers, mate.

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Dear Sam,
          Van Over, Charles. The Best Bread Ever: Great Homemade Bread Using your Food Processor. New York: Broadway Books, 1997. ISBN 0767900324. It is out of print and pricey used. If you can get a library copy, take a look at it first. The recipes are good, but you may find the greatest value in the book is the technique, which works particularly well for rustic breads. I'm learning more all the time. I just got Kaplan's Good Bread is Back and have only dipped into it. But it looks as if that work confirms a switch I have made since reading Jeff Hamelman. When I have a long bulk fermentation, I don't try fully to develop the gluten in the dough (i.e. work it to the point that I can do the windowpane test). I knead or mix it about 1/3 the normal time, if I do it by hand or in a stand mixer. Then I strengthen the gluten by folding it several times in the course of the fermentation. If I make a sourdough version of the Lahey no-knead loaf, I use about 1/10th the normal amount of leaven, let it bulk ferment 12 to 18 hours, and fold it a couple of times as I go along. For a faster rising time, I use about one part leaven to 3 parts of new dough and whirl it in a food processor fitted with the steel blade for 45 seconds. Bulk fermentation then takes about 3 to 3 1/2 hours at 76 degrees F. Both methods work very well for me.

      2. Yes, but I've only made the baguettes. Quite good.

        1. Yes--just for the basic recipe and the pizza. I'm a devotee though. The instructions are super-wordy, and so it's a pain to follow the first time, if you're like me and go line-by-line rather than from memory of the salient details, but those ones are very few and once you have them down the bread is brainless and can "run in the background" of basically anything else you're doing, but for long trips abroad.