“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” -M.F.K. Fisher
Isn’t it funny how seasonal changes can evoke such strong associations to different foods? I’m not a fan of cold weather and short days, but the one thing that I love about this time of year is baking bread (which, incidentally, would go nicely with my fellow blogger Tara’s own seasonal pick). Every year I dip my toe into bread baking with a few loaves of no-knead bread, finally taking the plunge and giving up a weekend morning to mixing, kneading, rising, and baking (and eating). All baking is basically just chemistry, but when you bake bread from scratch you can really see the transformation from a few simple ingredients into something completely different. A sticky dough transforms in your hands into something smooth and elastic, and then within an hour or two you have a big, fluffy, sometimes bubbly mound just waiting to be punched down and shaped into loaves. Making bread is easier than most people think it is, and so worth the payoff of a house that smells amazing and some fresh-from-the-oven carbs. Yum. But like with most things in life, a guide can be a nice thing to have. With that in mind, here are a few books I like on the subject:
Beth’s Basic Bread Book, by Beth Hensperger: I love this book for its detailed descriptions about your dough– a shaggy mass of dough lets you know it’s ready for kneading, and a little piece of dough pinched off your rising batch that floats to the top of a bowl of water is sufficiently risen (just a couple of the detailed tips in this book).
Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: They say man can’t live on bread alone, but I think I could give it a good go. That said, I do my best to make sure I eat more whole grain breads and less processed white bread. This book gives clear instructions and lots of photographs for some healthier alternatives to white bread.
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois: For those not willing (or able) to spend a morning devoted to bread, this book uses a no-knead method in which you mix up your dough, toss it in the fridge (for up to two weeks), and bake portions as desired. Voila; fresh bread whenever you like!
The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum: If you bake, you’re likely familiar with Beranbaum’s work– she also wrote The Cake Bible and The Pie and Pastry Bible. What I love about her books is that she incorporates simple information on the chemistry involved in baking, giving you more than just simple recipes.