When you read through Flour Salt Water Yeast, you get the feeling that author Ken Forkish really wants you to bake some bread. The book is all about baking top-notch artisan bread at home and, instead of giving you a list of recipes and leaving you to your own devices, it gives you a comprehensive course in everything you need to know about baking bread. The recipes range from simple to complex and cover white breads, whole wheat breads, sourdough breads and all kinds of artisan pizza doughs.
Where many books have an introduction that glosses over techniques and ingredients, this one turns that introduction into several whole chapters. It covers the fundamental techniques of bread baking and takes the time to explain why each element – from the temperature of your bread dough to the temperature of your oven – is so important. Before getting into the recipes, there is also a chapter on the basic bread method that very clearly walks you through mixing and kneading a straight bread dough. It is a very clear, step-by-step tutorial that is handy for any baker. The principles introduced in the first few chapters are followed throughout the book, with advanced elements such as poolishes and levains introduced in later chapters, gives you a very clear foundation for working through each and every recipe. There are quite a few asides throughout the book, answering questions that might come up along the way and offering variations on the breads.
Forkish points out that the book is suitable for both novice bakers and for more experienced bakers, and each chapter is designed to build on the last so that you can work your way up from basic breads to more advanced ones. Experienced bakers might be able to jump right in at later chapters, but everyone can enjoy the simple Saturday White Bread that starts off the book’s recipe section because it is the kind of straightforward recipe that it is easy to find time to make. The photographs throughout the book are beautiful, and the how-to photos towards the beginning really give you a good perspective on how things should be looking as you work (and are very helpful if you don’t have a lot of bread experience).
What do you think?