Monday, December 15, 2008

A Tale of Two Breads

I haven't bought a cookbook in a long time, but recently I treated myself to two new ones. The first is Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I have been eyeing this for a while and thought it would be a good purchase, what with the bakery business and all. This book is all about both the science and the art of great bread. Today I made this stollen, a German Christmas bread. I am going to do a little Christmas baking for the teachers at the boys' school so I wanted to take this for a trial run first. I'm usually not the biggest fan of the candied fruit in fruit bread/cake, but this is really good (probably because the fruit is soaked in rum first). If you have the book, I subbed a flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax seed whisked in 3 tbsp of water) for the egg, and margarine for the butter.

The other purchase was Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, a book that, in essence, says that Reinhart is full of crap. All the kneading, gluten development, sponges, and starters are unnecessary. All you need to do is mix together a simple dough and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. When you want to make bread, you shape a chunk into a loaf and bake it. The results are actually pretty good. The flavour is not a good as more complex recipes (like Reinhart's) but for easy everyday baking the work to taste ratio is quite good.

So if you are in the mood for some baking, I recommend these books.

15 comments:

shelby said...

Gorgeous loafs!

Veg-a-Nut said...

Both of these books are awesome. Luckily my library has them and usually don't have to wait to long to get them. I haven't tried the fruit bread for the same reason of "heavy fruit cake" experiences. Glad to here it is much better than we both expected

VegSpinz said...

Wow! I am all for easy bread! I have been making the No Knead Bread where you mix it up and leave it overnight, but never thought of leaving a batch in the fridge for up to 2 weeks! My household eats tons of bread and this would be perfect... I'd better buy more flour

Chi-Chi said...

Oh, thanks for the recommendations!! I was actually looking for a recipe for holiday bread.

Anonymous said...

i have actually been looking at both of these books recently. does reinhart's book have lots of breads that call for eggs? it's good to hear you had success with one using a flax sub.

i'm leaning towards reinhart's as i think it would be interesting to learn about the science of bread baking and a more traditional approach. i might check out 5 minutes a day at some point if i find recipes in reinhart's too complex or time consuming. if i like his book i might end up picking up his whole wheat book as well.

bread baking is awesome.

jms said...

Thanks! I am SO excited about your Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes recommendation! I've been buying books and reading websites and dreaming about Baking Bread for years--honestly--but have been totally intimidated. I successfully made the NYT no-knead loaf but yearned for a whole-grainier bread. I just ordered the book, a peel, and stone, and will be anxiously watching my mailbox!
~Jain

lisbet said...

Do you just grind your flax on the spot or buy pre-ground? Just curious, because I am that lazy sometimes.

Bianca said...

I went to a non-vegan potluck this past weekend and a guy brought stollen. Having never heard of it, I believed him when he told me it was naturally a vegan recipe. So I ate some, and it was good.

He even sent the leftovers home with me, but when I got home, I googled it and found that most recipes contain eggs. Since the guy is a huge proponent of meat-heavy diets, I figure he probably didn't know what vegan means.

And that made me sad. Because it was good. I didn't eat the rest. :-(

The Little Mama said...

I went through a phase where I was obsessed with Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. It is still an awesome book, especially for busy parents, but I recently bought the Tassajara Bread book, and am loving that too. Not very vegan, but easily veganized... Oh bread, how I love you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I was actually looking at both of these too. If you could only choose one of them which would you recommend?

Vegan Dad said...

Lisbet,
I by the seeds and grind them in an electric coffee grinder.

Anon,
I have to recommend Reinhart over Artisan in 5. But, it depends on how serious you want to get about bread. The Artisan in 5 recipe are good, but not great. They are fast, which is a bonus, but Reinhart's recipes produce much better loaves.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Vegan Dad! You have totally inspired me to get into bread. Thanks for narrowing down the choice for me.

Anonymous said...

I went for the Artisan in 5 book and it is great. Once I get more secure in my baking maybe I will move onto the Reinhart books. Even good bread is better than so-so bread you find in most supermarkets and health food stores. Next I will move onto making great bread!

pikaciuka said...

Hello,

I am really interested in how your bread gets golden brown so much...Do you have a special oven or anything else out of the ordinary? Or do you do something special to the dough? My bread never gets like this, not even a little bit golden, it remains "white" :( If you have any tricks pretty please share them with us ugly bread makers..
Thanks!
And keep up the good work.

Vegan Dad said...

pikaciuka,
The trick is a hot oven (400 to 450) and a pan of steaming water in the bottom of the oven. Check out Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" for what he calls the hearth baking method.