December 2, 2015 | By matt | Comments
(btw: the above image is from one of my favorite bread spots in the U.S., Babettes)
It’s a good year to be a BREAD HEAD!
Bread is trending. Or, more specifically, bread baking cookbooks are trending. It is 2015 and we are awash in a bounty of big, beautiful, bread cookbooks from some of our favorite places. This is a good thing. A very good thing. Because you can never have too much home baked bread.
I am a bread addict. This has already been established. And yet, initially I felt a little self-conscious about adding yet more volumes to my “How to Bake Artisanal Loaves at Home” cookbook shelf. But, these volumes are just too good and too varied to ignore. Go get them all (or at least one or two) for the bread baker in your life (or for yourself).
Sourdough by Sarah Owens
This is the book that surprised me most. First, I (embarrassingly) didn’t know of Sarah Owens before I bought this book. And, I most certainly didn’t expect page after page of glorious recipes that incorporated “starter” in new and interesting ways (I wish I had this book about 5 years ago when I was initially going through my “what the hell else can I do with this starter” phase). And lastly, I did not expect to be so taken with Sarah’s life. It is the rare cookbook author that makes you wish she/he had a memoir in the making. Sarah’s journey from botanist to bread baker is so engagingly written and weaved into her recipes that you occasionally forget you are reading a perfect cookbook. And her tips and tricks and techniques for working with sourdough are well organized and precise but not comprehensive. I like to think of this book as just above beginner.
Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread by Zachary Golper and Peter Kaminsky
I am lucky enough to live near the Brooklyn retail store for Bien Cuit. It is here if you are looking for it. I have tried nearly every item they make and I am never disappointed (oh Lord, that miche is dream worthy). The accompanying book is astounding. I was not expecting it to provide step-by-exhaustive-step instruction for bread baking at home. But here it is. It is similar in approach (pages of guidance) to one of my all time faves, Tartine Bread, and in some instances goes even further. I recommend this book for beginners and advanced bakers alike. The recipes graduate to various grains and other shapes (not everything is baked in a dutch oven)…and I have about 10 pages earmarked for future endeavors. And hoping that the “bien cuit” gospel (that of dark and crunchy loaves) will prevail in the land of sad, doughy, under baked supermarket bread. One item of note, the many reviewers/commenters are none too thrilled with the binding of this book. Actually, it doesn’t really have a spine in the traditional sense. My copy of the book has held up fine, and it lays flat while opened (a nice touch to be sure). But there are rumors of books falling apart. And, some book people are just not happy with the way it looks on the shelf.
Hot Bread Kitchen by Jessamyn Rodriguez
Mini confession. I have yet to really dig into this book, but I have always admired Hot Bread Kitchen. It is unique in that it is run as a non-profit with a strong mission statement (from their website) “Hot Bread Kitchen builds lasting economic security for low-income, immigrant and minority individuals by creating pathways to professional opportunities in the culinary industry.” That is well and good, but their breads are on par with some of the better bakeries in NYC and that can be lost in the discussions about this bakery. The cookbook is evocative of the bakery in that it concentrates on multi-ethnic breads (Albanian cheese triangles anyone?) and there is a killer section on tortillas. This book really stands out in a sea of artisan/ancient grains bread books (though I love ancient grains bread like no other) and it should be added to your shelf at once.
Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love by Simran Sethi
Yeah, I haven’t had a chance to read this book yet either. And, no, it is is not a cookbook, but a friend recommended it and it name checks my three favorite things in the world in the title. I gather from the reviews it is about the interplay of food, environment and agriculture and I look forward to reading this in the dead of winter for some reason.
My Keepers – Bread-books-I-love-but-they-were-not-published-this-year (but you should still make sure they are on your shelf regardless).
Tartine Bread: This is “The” book on artisan home baked bread. Just buy it already.
Flour Water Salt Yeast: I originally thought this brilliant book got overlooked or overshadowed, but it seems to be a cult favorite. And I made what I consider to be my best loaf yet using this book.
My Bread: This is the Lahey book that changed the bread baking world. Great for beginning bread bakers.
In Search of the Perfect Loaf: I devoured this bread adventure memoir in one night. And his recipes are spot on.
Josey Baker Bread: Great entry level bread baking book with a ton of personality.