The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

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Joined Mar 12, 2004
I did a search of this forum and was very surprised that this book had not been reviewed. It is a highly regarded book and often cited in forum threads on bread baking.

So as not to keep you in suspense, if you are interested in bread, I highly recommend this book. And if you are just getting started baking bread, this is definitely the first book you should buy--it may be the last.

I have baked bread for years, both by hand and using bread machines, but recently realized that I didn't truly understand the whole process. I could get generally good results with a recipe, but certainly wasn't comfortable with much experimentation or substitution.

After reading the first 100 pages of "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhard, everything changed. Reinhart is a full-time baking instructor at Johnson & Wales University and has extensive experience as a professional baker. He is also an excellent writer. In the first hundred pages, you learn about flour, yeast, fermentation, handling dough, the 12-stage baking process, and a lot more. All of this vital information is not presented in the typical textbook style, but rather as an informal guided conversation. At virtually every point, Reinhart anticipates the questions you will have.

This book is written for both professional and home bakers. All recipes are scaled for home use but are also provided with forumulas that allow them to be scaled as desired. Reinhart also does describes the limitations and workarounds needed to produce professional results on home equipment.

Before buying this book, I had read several reader reviews. One reader stated that while reading the book, it felt like Reinhart was right there beside her guiding her through the entire process. That is an excellent description of the book's approach. When it comes to bread, Reinhart 'has been there and done that' and does an extraordinary job of describing the complete process. He doesn't just tell you how you should bake bread, he explains the problems and pitfalls you will encounter, and how to handle them if the arise.

The last 200 pages of the book are dedicated to recipes, but these are not simply formulas. Each bread--there are over 40--is covered in 3-5 pages of highly detailed instructions. Again, Reinhart answers questions and variables you may encounter with a complete commentary, notes, and photos that leave no stone unturned.

So far I have used 3 of the bread formulas (Reinhart prefers the term 'formula' to 'recipe') from this book and each provided some of the best bread I have ever eaten. The "Pain a l'Ancienne" produces an unusually elastic dough that might have you second-guessing if it can possibly work, but the results are incredible.

In conclusion, this is the best cookbook I have ever read. Even books such as "Beard on Bread" pale in comparison to the wealth of practical knowledge the Apprentice provides. If you are a master baker, I doubt you need this book, but for the rest of us, the Apprentice will provide a true understanding of baking yeast based breads and the baking process.

The Bread Baker's Apprentice is a hard cover book that sells for about $35.00 in bookstores and $25.00 through Amazon. An absolute bargain for any break baker.
 
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Joined Aug 14, 2000
Hi RJ - If you do a search on 'Reinhart' you will find that he and his books are well know quantities here on ChefTalk :)
 
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Joined Mar 12, 2004
Kyle, you're right. I just thought since there is a book review forum and it was not listed, that it deserved a review in case someone was looking for one.
 
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Joined Aug 14, 2000
I agree. I'm a big Peter fan. In fact, The Big Hat, a CT regular, even introduced me to him!
 
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Joined Dec 18, 2003
Anyone have problems shaping the baguettes using his technique? Every time I make them, they come out skimpy and layered...

Not good eats!
 
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Peter is coming to ST. Louis the second week of May!!! Hope to snag an invite to his program.
 
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Joined Dec 30, 1999
shroomgirl,

Could you please post specific details? I'd be very interested in hearing him.
 
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Joined Aug 11, 2000
I caught the last 45 minutes, GREAT PIZZA!!! He is a gem, I really like his energetic love of cooking/sharing.
I get to work with Father Dom another great bread guy this Jan. I'll let you know what he's up to.
I did buy "Perfect Pizza", first new cookbook I've bought in a long time....I think it'll be worth it.
:D
 
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Chef Reindhart= AMAZING!
Being a JWU student gives me a first hand view of his amazing work and a discount on the book! I hope everyone can experience him first hand in his great pizza demo!
 
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Joined Jan 6, 2005
Have been a Saturday Bread baker for 15 years. Happy with most results except my Ciabatta. My Ciabatta structure was too tight. Nothing in the 30 bread books in my library even metioned Ciabataa since all were published before the Artisan explosion.

Looking through bread books at Borders in September. The picture on page 137 of "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" blew me away. So I bought. Like the book. Have followed Reinhart's directions for Ciabatta for the past 5 Saturdays. Produces a nice bread but the structure is not like that slice illustrated on page 137.

Beginning to think I need to view a tape or CD of the entire Ciabatta making process. Anyone know of such a thing? Any other ideas.
 

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