What exactly is artisan bread? I mean, we all recognize those ridiculously delicious looking loaves, all slightly different in shape yet with perfectly dark golden crusts and a smell that just shouts “eat me!” when we see them, but artisan bread is far more than visual appeal. Artisan Baking is a cookbook that not only explains the general ideas behind artisanal breads (high quality, made at least in part by hand and with a tremendous amount of skill and care), but walks you through the process of making them.
Now, I want to mention that with this cookbook or any other, you are not going to turn out breads that will be on par with your local favorite artisanal breads. At least, the very first loaves you try are not going to be. The whole idea of artisan breads is that they take a certain amount of skill and often require a “feel” that can only be developed over time and with a fair amount of practice. All that being said, you absolutely have to start somewhere and this book will certainly get you off on the right foot.
The recipes and instructions all come from well known and well respected bakeries and many of the chosen items are considered to be specialities of that particular bakery, so you can rest assured that you’re starting with the best (with the possible exception of actually going to said bakery and trying for an internship there). A few of the recipes use non-wheat flours in addition to regular bread flour. All of the baking terms (pre-ferment, proofing, retardation, etc) used are all well-explained and by the time you work your way through the book, not only will you have eaten a lot of bread, but it will probably have been excellent – even if it’s not quite perfect yet.