"Good bread is hard to find and easy to make," says Dan Leader as he draws you into the ancient world of traditional bread baking. Unlike any other bread book, Bread Alone will provide you with a comprehensive guide to creating—at home—the country-style breads that have consistently captured the imagination and the taste buds of the world.
In a richly told tale, Leader chronicles his crossings of America and Europe to locate the most vital ingredients at the source, to learn from the methods of the world's great bakers, and to perfect their traditional techniques. His recipes are ones that have been used for centuries: large sourdough ryes, rich and dark raisin pumpernickel loaves, real French pain au levain, big round wheats with walnuts, crusty baguettes, high and airy breads, and more. Made from organic, stone-ground grains, these breads are slow-leavened, hand-shaped, and baked to perfection on heated baking tiles. As you read through the recipes, you can almost smell the ancient aroma of baking bread. And as you begin to bake, you will learn the importance of the primary ingredient in great bread: your own observations.
These are some of the breads and techniques you will master:
- In the chapter "Becoming Bread," you will learn to identify and shop for the highest quality flour available. And you will seek it out because you'll taste the difference.
- Making a poolish will become second nature to you as you master the Learning Recipe: Classic Country-Style Hearth Loaf and its delicious variations.
- Whatever your schedule, there is a bread for you. In the chapter "Straight-Dough Breads: Traditional Breads for a Modern Life-Style," you are shown how to start and finish a recipe in five hours, or morning-to-night, or night-to-night.
- You will bake sourdough bread in its many forms. By gently introducing the concept of sourdough—how it is made, how it is maintained, and how to get the best flavor from it—Leader demystifies it and makes it accessible to you.
- Discover the wonders of rye bread: From the dense and chewy Finnish Sour Rye to the fragrant Danish Light Rye, everyone's tastes are served.
- The mystery of pain au levain, French for "bread from a sourdough or wild yeast," unfolds into an understandable, user-friendly process. From My Personal Favorite Pain au Levain, a typical large Parisian loaf, to Pain au Levain with Pecans and Dried Cherries, the "Family of Traditional Pain au Levain" includes some of the best loaves baked around the world.
- A perfect baguette is a beautiful thing. From shaping to scoring, you will learn how to make the authentic French baguette at home.
- The purpose of an organic certifier—find out how and why one farmer becomes dedicated to his role as land steward.
- Brioche, Chocolate-Apricot Kugelhopf, Panettone, and Semolina Sesame Rolls are a few recipes you will find in "A Family of Breads Inspired by Traditional French and Italian Breads."
- Finally, when a quick bread is all you have time to bake, you will find recipes for such delights as Vanilla Bean Butter Loaf; Dried Pear, Port, and Poppy Seed Loaf; and Provolone Sage Corn Loaf.
Bread Alone is the bread book that cooks and bakers have been waiting for. From the wheat fields of the Midwest to the hot and steamy boulangeries of Paris, you will travel the long and delicious road to flawless bread baking. You will emerge a better baker and with a deeper understanding of what it takes to make perfect loaves. Bakers entertain you with stories of their love of baking (even in the most adverse situations). Bread Alone is the bible of bread books and a must-have for bread lovers everywhere.
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About the Author
Daniel Leader is the owner and baker of the Bread Alone Bakery in New York's Catskill Mountains. Dan's food career began when, nine months short of his undergraduate philosophy degree from the University of Wisconsin, he realized his need to work with his hands as well as his mind. He enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, graduated at the top of his class, and, worked as a chef for some of New York City's hottest restaurants, La Grenouille and the Water Club. Then, after eight years of cooking food "too fancy to eat," he became obsessed with the idea of creating something wholesome, timeless, and beautiful. Great bread and Bread Alone were born. Dan lives in Boiceville, New York, with his wife, Sharon, and four children, Liv, Nels, Octavia, and Noah.
Read an Excerpt
Bread Alone: Bold Fresh
By Daniel Leader
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
Two hundred and thirty big country loaves are just about ready to come out of the oven. Five more minutes, I think to myself--any longer would burn some, and any less would leave others raw and doughy. I stand in front of the oven and wait. It's the only time I'll have to stand still, and I like it. I take the chance to admire the oven for maybe the thousandth time. I love looking at it--tall, wide, deep, beautifully solid red brick, with a wood fire that emits soft inescapable heat. Forty minutes ago these breads were loaded into the oven; the last flames have died, but I can still feel the burn of the heat. Sometimes it's so intense itturns the arched bricks of the hearth inside ash-white. To weather it, I work in tanktop, shorts, and sneakers--winter, spring, summer, and fall.
I can't see how the breads are doing now, but I want to. Any one of the four rectangular iron doors would easily swing open if I tapped on it with the paddle end of my fourteen-foot-long baker's peel. But I resist. I don't want to disrupt the balance of heat, time, and baking inside. The aroma from the oven is tender-sweet, not at all the strong toasted smell that signals burning crust. A few more minutes, I say to myself. I wait.
I glance at my hands curled around the smooth handle of the peel. As usual, they are gloved with flour.There's flour under my fingernails and the same creamy dust coats every hair on my arms up to my elbows. My palms have become like dough itself, warm and soft. Almost every baker I've met for the first time has shook my hand with the same kind of smooth and dusty palm I have now.
The fragrance in the air has changed somewhat--not so sweet, slightly toasted. I tip open a door and the bright hearth light illuminates the breads, a sea of round caramel-colored loaves, each one domed and glowing. A vision of abundance, they sit on the brick hearth in neat rows, looking so swollen they could explode. I pull one out and look at it carefully. Its vibrant reddish-brown crust has expanded beautifully. I turn it over and give the bottom a thump with my finger: the sound is hollow. Done to perfection. The loaf is very hot, so I quickly place it on the cooling rack. As I do, I hear its crust begin to crackle and pop. All the loaves will do the same, as the hot and puffy crusts contract slightly when they meet the cooler air.
I begin to work quickly, sliding the peel under as many loaves as possible at a time, then pulling them out and sliding them onto the wire cooling racks nearby. I have to hustle to get the breads out before they toast too dark, because even with the doors open, the hearth and oven remain extremely hot and the breads will continue to bake. Heat pours out into the room while I work hear the open face of the oven, shoving the long-handled peel deeper each time to retrieve more loaves. They are so hot it feels as if I'm pulling fire from fire. If I can keep a consistent rhythm going, I'll get to the loaves in the back just at the right moment. They always take a little longer to bake than the breads in front.
Halfway through I examine another loaf.
It has a very good color and aroma, but an odd knot on the top makes it imperfectly round. It makes me smile, and I place it on the rack with the others. There will be many more like it.
Fifteen minutes later the cooling racks are full and crackling with new breads. Not one burned or toasted too dark. I take the one that has been cooling the longest and hold it up to my face with both hands. The sweet wheat fragrance makes my mouth water. I press with my thumbs until the crust fractures and a sweet grain aroma rises from within. I share the loaf with the other bakers.
The vacant hearth floor has cooled some and the cavernous oven, looking like the open mouth of a hungry animal, awaits the next doughy raw loaves. With a weathered wrought-iron hook, I open the damper to the oven, remove the empty cast-iron water bucket, and lift the heavy iron collar into its housing over the firebox; this will direct the flames into the oven for the next firing. Next, I open the firebox door and immediately feel the rush of coal-red heat on my legs. I take a shovel and level the piles of burning embers. Then I go through the back door of the bakery to the woodpile outside. The chilly autumn air invigorates my hot skin. There's a wheelbarrow sitting nearby, and eventually I've piled it high with split logs for a fresh fire. When I stoke the coals in the firebox with the new wood, the logs explode into flames.
I am hypnotized by the fire--a rich, primitive, organic power. I stare into it as it grows and gains force, and my imagination is fed by the flames. Sometimes I see memories come alive in the quick strokes of fire--times I've spent with people around other fires in other places. Sometimes I stare and work through a problem I have to solve: How will I pay the miller this month, why is the sourdough so sluggish? But today I'm not thinking anything. Fm feeling.
I'm not sure what the feeling is exactly, but luck comes the closest. If my life were a fable or myth, I would love the role I've been cast in--the village baker. I'm happy producing hearty breads in the tradition of European village bakers. These are large hand-formed loaves made only from organic flour, yeast, water, and salt--nothing else . . . .
Excerpted from Bread Alone: Bold Fresh
by Daniel Leader
Copyright © 2006 by Daniel Leader.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Nice solid bread making book, artisan techniques, translated well for home use
This is Leader's first book. It has an interesting collection of recipes. Most of these are similar recipes with slightly different additions. However, the additions are quite innovative and non-trivial. Heavy use of "copy and paste" functionality means that many of the recipes read pretty much the same.
This book walks you through the process of making bakery quality bread. It's really the only book on the topic the average home baker will ever need.
Bread Alone is a lovely book. In that regard, I feel like it is a cookbook that goes beyond recipes to an approach. Bread in this book is born of an experience and an attitude. What recipes lack in minute detail is most likely a conscientious effort. The recipes are perfect platforms to embrace natural variation while maintaining a few simple controls. I liked the book so much and checked it out from the library so many times that my fiance got it for me as a birthday present!
I wouldn't recommend this book for the beginning baker on fire with enthusiasm for baking loaves. It's a fine book to read, but I found the recipes rather frustrating. However, I enjoyed the quick-bread recipes in the back of the book immensely, and my friends have raved about those breads!
Daniel Leader offers a book that is over fermenting with his love for bread- old world and beyond. I would swear that this book has introduced essential wild yeast to my kitchen's atmosphere, and helped me produce breads that have my teachers asking for more!
Great Book for simply wonderful bread and pizza. I was so please to find a book with the information on 'simple' bread--bread you can make with only wheat, water, a small amount of yeast, oil, and salt and you have wonderful bread with a great crust. I have had success adjusting the whole wheat/white flour ratios to include more whole wheat. I have friends that request that I make this bread for them as their Christmas present every year! All my children gobble it up whenever I make it.
As a novice breadbaker, I picked up this book to guide me in my quest to make various loaves. The book has a very wide variety of bread recipes and interesting background and anecdotal information as well. The step descriptions are helpful, but not as much as they could be. From a novices perspective, what this book lacked most of all was troubleshooting information; for example when describing maintaining the 'chef', the book says a clear liquid may form, but if it's pinked tinged that the 'chef' is bad - my problem is that my liquid that formed was light to dark brown and I have no idea where this falls into. Another big (big) problem with the book is the inconsistancy in measurements - the conversions appear different from one recipe to the next, do I trust the weight or volume measurement? This is a good book for a broad range of information on different types of loaves, but it also is a frustrating reference. Not recommended for the novice.