Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor is one of the nominees for best Baking and Pastry Cookbook in the 2008 James Beard Awards. If you’re not familiar with the awards, they’re designed to recognize excellence in the food industry with awards for everything from best chef to best new cookbook to best newspaper food section. But fans of Peter Reinhart won’t need an awards nomination to know that his new cookbook is a standout. Reinhart is the author of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, a book that is almost like a bible of bread-baking to most cooks and bakers.
Whole Grain Breads carries on in the same vein as The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, giving readers tons of in-depth information on the different flours and ingredients that are used in the construction of artisanal whole-grain breads, as well as detailed instructions on the various methods he employs to get them to turn out perfectly. In spite of all this background-type information, this is not a novice baking book at all. Reinhart’s instructions are clear and he makes the recipes as detailed as possible, giving ingredient amounts in volume, ounces and grams while carefully describing each bit of the dough making and shaping process. But even though it is carefully done, bakers who have some experience working with starters, bigas and other slow-fermenting doughs are the ones who will find themselves on the most familiar territory here. It’s not that baking with whole grains is necessarily difficult, but it can be more complex than “regular” bread baking, since the various flours and grains used have a wide range of properties that must be taken into account – unlike your typical baguette recipe, where water, salt and the protein content of the flour are really the only things that need to be taken into account when building a dough.
It seems like this book is not a stand-alone volume in the way that BBA is. It is more like a sequel that builds upon the story of the first volume. It is a fantastic resource for bread bakers who are looking for more professional recipes and tips to perfect their breads. Unlike some other whole grain books, it doesn’t spend that much time catering to the less experienced or to those looking for a “quick-fix” bread recipe. It might not be the best “starter” cookbook on the topic, but this volume certainly seems like one that will stand the test of time and become a shelf-staple for bakers, just like its predecessor.