Peter Reinhart is well known as an expert in all things baking, and his book, Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers is a book worth looking at if you are set on producing some great loaves at home. The title of the book might sound a little intimidating to many home bakers, but this is really a book for those who are serious about making good bread and learning the techniques behind it, not just for those who have gone through a culinary school’s baking program.
The book starts out with an excellent introductory section where Reinhart explains his theory that bread baking is 80% technique and 20% equipment. This does mean that you’ll need to practice and get a feel for your doughs before your turn out that perfect loaf, but Reinhart is there every step of the way guiding you through any misstep you might take and can just about guarantee that you’ll end up with world-class bread in the end. The intro covers the basic bread types, all of the tools that you might need while baking – including some that are optional but handy – and a nice glossary of baking terminology. Also useful are the detailed instructions on shaping and proofing breads, as well as notes about how to turn any oven into a better bread baking environment.
There is lots of background information and plenty of tips to help you master each “master formula” as you work your way through the book. Recipes are given by volume and weight. Both novice bakers and more experienced ones will find the detailed instructions in the book to be very helpful, whether you’re doing a multi-step rustic bread recipe or a simple blueberry muffin. The focus is heavily on yeast breads, but it’s nice that there are a few quicker recipes to break things up if you’re looking for something different. There are plenty of photos of finished loaves in the book, but the most useful photos are the illustrations that break down the techniques pieces and show they step-by-step. These really come in handy when you’re confronted with a technique that you’re not too familiar with and help to ensure that you’ll have a good looking and good tasting result.