Welcome to this month’s instalment of The Everyday Baker review (I’m spreading it out over the course of a year because with over 170 recipes and 600+ pages, it’s a little hard to cover unless you divide it up into chapters!). This month, we’re looking at “Yeast Breads”.
Now anyone who has been following this site for a long time might remember how afraid of bread I used to be. My earliest documented adventures in bread baking state that “I am clearly not a baker”. That was 7 years ago. Obviously I have come a long way since then (thankfully, you know, since I’m writing a cookbook myself now!) because I’ve practised a lot but bread is still one of those things I get a little anxious about. I was somewhat comforted by the fact that I’ve made one of Abby’s bread recipes before – a peasant boule not entirely unlike the one I made from this month’s chapter – and it was a great success. It was also one of the first times I realised I had enough baker’s instinct to change things (add a touch more water etc…) in a bread recipe without it being a total disaster. Still, though… I was a little anxious…
Yeast Breads Recipes
There are 16 recipes in this chapter – including (whole) wheat loaves to challah, sweet potato bread, stöllen, pretzels, ciabatta, bagels, dinner rolls, sticky buns, muffins and baguettes. Enough of a selection to challenge bakers at every level, from beginner to advanced. A great round up of “base” yeast baking recipes. The recipes themselves are packed with information – as with anything but especially with bread and baking, it’s important to read the recipe through completely before you start. Because of the way the recipes are written, it’s very easy to see how long all the resting (proving) times are for each dough and I like the way Abby’s recipes in this book are divided into “stages” (make the dough, shape the bread, bake the bread) so it’s easy to keep track of where you are in each recipe. As usual, Abby gives great tips about re-sizing, different flavours and storage for each recipe.
Yeast Breads Bakers’ Wisdom and Techniques and Tips
I think for me, even more so than the great array of recipes in this chapter, the Bakers’ Wisdom and Techniques and Tips in this chapter are worth their weight in gold. The Essential Technique colour step-by-step images are what every novice (or nervous!) baker needs when working with bread. There are a lot of different types of dough outlined in this chapter and Abby shows you in images how to shape them properly (with detailed diagrams for things like the braided challah and the dinner rolls) and there’s some excellent information about how to knead yeast doughs (not so easy to show in images but Abby does an great job of showing each stage). I know for information like this, a lot of people work from online videos but I don’t think these are the most use in the kitchen when you have fingers caked in flour. With a book, you can have dough up to your elbows but the book opened up to the relevant “help” section pages with no electronics to worry about, just useful advice literally there at your fingertips. Important techniques are highlighted in bold in the recipes themselves so that before you begin, you can mark those pages for easy reference. Most of these pages will stay marked in my book, not just when I am baking, simply because of how useful they are baking anyone’s bread.
Which recipe from Yeast Breads did I make?
There were a lot of recipes in this chapter I wanted to make (challah, hot cross buns and English muffins, for example) but I felt I needed to try one of the “basic” bread recipes and what better choice could there be than a Rustic Country Bread? Abby says it’s one of the most straightforward recipes from her book and also argues it is “one of the most satisfying”. I couldn’t agree more. That sound you get when you cut through a crusty loaf then look inside to find a gorgeous crumb and lovely airy holes (just like a real bakery loaf, squee!!). There is a lot of resting time (around 4 hours) but as Abby says, if you start this in the morning, you’ll have a lovely loaf ready for dinner. And leftovers toast up beautifully.
As promised, this is a straightforward recipe. If you’re not a bread baker, some of the stages might look alarming to you (it’s a fairly wet dough) but Abby’s descriptions should walk you through any anxiety about what your dough is looking like. As with most things bread-related, have faith and keep going – your end result might surprise you! Mine sure did because it was a little bit flatter than I was expecting and I was sure it was not cooked properly on this inside. As I cut open the loaf, I was relived to see it looked “right” on the inside. I’d like a taller loaf next time though and will try resting it for the last time with a smaller bowl covering it on the tray – it does rise up and out to meet the edges of whatever you’ve covered it with (my largest mixing bowl in my case). But no matter, this tastes superb. It looks like the real deal. It made me feel like I’m starting to “get bread”. And ready to tackle the other recipes in this chapter! Thanks Abby!
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Disclosure: Abby is a friend but she didn’t ask me to write about the book. In fact, she didn’t even know I had a copy until I told her!
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