More than four decades ago, The Tassajara Bread Book opened up with the following epigram:
“We need more cooks, not more cookbooks.”
Now we have a lot more of both, plus video. Here are few of the latest gems of the genre:
My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method, Jim Lahey (W.W. Norton & Company)
A bread one doesn’t knead calls to mind a cake mix with a slew of mystery ingredients and food science. But Lahey’s bread has only four ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast, and the yeast is a fraction of what’s usually called for. You might say a fifth ingredient is time; the dough ferments for 12 to 18 hours. The result is a bread for the ages, crisp on the outside, nutty and open-holed on the inside. My Bread expands the concept into a variety of breads, pizzas and sandwiches.
You can learn the basic steps of the basic loaf through this legendary 2006 video with The New York Times’ Mark Bittman.
Tartine Bread, Chad Robertson (Chronicle Books)
Robertson apprenticed in western Massachusetts and France before returning to northern California to create a signature loaf that looks a lot like Lahey’s but features a natural leaven. Many of us know this as sourdough starter, but Robertson manages his in a way that reduces its acidity and sourness while boosting its flavor.
The book is the highly crafted and personal fruit of an obsession, like the bread, and, for that matter, like this video:
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, Peter Reinhard (Ten Speed Press)
Reinhart is a winner of the Beard Foundation bread competition, a baking instructor, and an accomplished storyteller with five books under his name. Bread Baker’s Apprentice unfolds the story and technique of bread baking in 12 steps, then lays out how to make more than 40 different breads. His TED Talk is a succinct discursion on the 12 steps that, true to the TED form, captures the narrative and metaphoric charms of his subject.