One of the hardest things about bread-making – especially with artisanal breads that involve multiple slow rises – is the timing. The recipes are stretched out over many, many hours and I’ve heard of people waking up at all hours of the night just to feed their starters, knead down a first rise or get a loaf into the oven. To be honest, hearing stories like this makes breadmaking seem intimidating, when it’s really not all that difficult to do! Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day breaks down bread-making into simple and easy to follow steps that remove the stress from trying your hand at artisan breads. And Reinhart does it all without “dumbing down” the recipes, instead relying on clear explanations and detailed instructions to encourage the reader to bake and produce great results.
As I said, the recipes are very easy to follow. While Reinharts previous books are detailed, this book approaches the task of artisan bread baking looking for new techniques and new methods that will make the process simpler but still produce great results. Many of the breads have starters, most call for long rises and they are all shaped by hand before baking. The instructions simply serve to reassure you as they guide you. Want to do a 4 hour rise? A 48 hour rise? No problem. Just leave the dough as the book tells you and come back any time for the next step. There is none of the buildup (high stress for many would-be bakers) of having to stick to a set-in-stone timeline as you work.
The book is filled with beautiful photos, showing the breads in progress as well as the finished loaves. When shaping techinques are called for, such as braiding a loaf, photos showing the steps accompany the instructions. The recipes are divided into Sourdough Breads, French Breads, Enriched Breads and Rich Breads, and there is also a chapter that discusses the methods used in the book and breadmaking in general to start things off. The breads range from simple sandwich breads to whole grain sourdoughs and sweet brioche. Finally, if you have Reinhart’s other books, keep in mind that the recipes and techniques, even for the same breads, are different in this book, so it’s work getting if you’re a fan of his work. Otherwise, it’s a well-rounded book that should appeal to experienced bakers and for those just looking to get their feet wet.