I’ve been trying to bake more bread over the past several months, and after reading a lot of information on The Fresh Loaf about more advanced bread baking than the sandwich loves in the The Joy of Cooking I got a copy of Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes with the intention of improving my bread-baking skills. I’ve read it from cover to cover.
If you’re not already comfortable in the kitchen then Bread is probably not the book for you. It appears to be written for professional bakers. However, I believe that the place to look for the best advice on how to do something right is in literature written for people who do that thing for a living, and Bread is no exception. There’s a ton of great information, from explaining the differences between different kinds of wheat to how to shape different of loaves of bread, to how to weave quite complicated decorative breads out of individual strands of dough. I’ve only baked 3 loaves of bread since I finished the book, (and 2 of them were from the same batch of dough), and already my bread is orders of magnitude better than it was before I read the book.
While the recipes in the book make are naturally somewhat repetitive to read, (I skipped some of details of some of the recipes), the whole first part of the book is full of information and walks us through the steps involved in making bread, and the ingredients that bread is made from, filled with Mr. Hamelman’s personal stories and history. This background information helped me to really understand not only how bread is made, but why it is made the way it is made.
I’m excited to continue experimenting with bread recipes from Bread and with my own creations using what I learned from it.