Few things could be more tempting than a loaf of crusty, artisanal bread when it is freshly baked and still slightly warm from the oven. It would be lovely to be able to walk down to a corner bakery and have your pick of any bread you can imagine, but it is more satisfying to craft a loaf yourself and bake it in your home oven. In The Italian Baker, Revised: The Classic Tastes of the Italian Countryside–Its Breads, Pizza, Focaccia, Cakes, Pastries, and Cookies home bakers can get a taste of baking traditions from all over Italy, with history and detailed recipes for all kinds of baked goods both sweet and savory, everyday and special occasion.
The book begins with a discussion of what makes bread so important – and so appreciated – in Italian culture. Getting just a taste of this background won’t get you the insight that touring bakeries in Italy will, but it is just enough to get you to think just a little bit more about what the tradition of baking these breads means. The bread recipes in the book come from all over the country, so you get all of the distinct styles of Italian breads in one volume. The author states that she tried to keep the recipes as authentic to their Italian roots as possible, only making substitutions or suggestions for alternative ingredients when ones widely used in Italy are unavailable in the US. She also offers a lot of discussion about flours, fats and other ingredients used.
The recipes themselves are lovely. Since they are as authentic as possible, many of the bread recipes call for starters and long fermentation to produce the best results. This can be intimidating to many home bakers who don’t work regularly with yeast. Fortunately, each recipe is written very clearly with easy to follow instructions that really walk you through the steps of crafting the breads and pastries (the same holds true for the simpler cookie recipes, as well) to ensure that your finished product turns out as it should. It is easy to get excited about trying the recipes when presented with the back story for each of them and the obvious passion with which the author approaches her subject. Beautiful photos of the breads will help draw you in to the world of Italian baking, too.