Monday, December 15, 2008

Book Review - Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Bread

I thought it would be a good idea to do a quick review of one of my bread cookbooks, Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads.

I hate to say it, but right now this is one of my least favorite cookbooks. This is the only cookbook I actually edit before I use. There are a couple different methods of making bread: by hand, using a mixer, or a food processor. This cookbook annoyingly combines the three methods in the directions. I actually go through the recipe before I make it and put a line through all the instructions that don't apply, just to make it easier to follow.

Additionally, the directions are not always clear. Just as an example, the last recipe I made had and instruction to knead the bread for 8 minutes in the mixer, but at what speed? It seems like there would be a pretty significant difference between kneading at high and at low.

My final complaint about this book is that the ingredients seem a little dated. Several recipes call for shortening, which I don't use. Many recipes call for powdered milk. This has caused me to skip a lot of recipes. I think I will go back and substitute butter for the shortening and milk for the powdered milk, but it seems the recipes are showing their age.

One more comment about the book... everything is measured in cups. This is probably a personal preference, but I would much prefer measurements by weight. Of course a lot of bread making has to do with the air humidity and the moisture content of the ingredients, so perhaps measurement isn't as important as I think.

Even with all those complaints, I still use this cookbook. The sheer breadth of recipes is outstanding, and the brief stories that accompany each recipe are nice. It just bothers me when something could so easily be great, but due to flaws, is merely good.

A Bread Winter - Raisin Rye Bread

I've decided to bake more bread this winter. I'm going to aim for baking one loaf of bread a week, but I think that will be a difficult goal to meet.

This week, I decided to make the Raisin Rye Bread from "Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads". I'll follow up this post with a brief review of the cookbook.

I had a little trouble making the dough come together in the mixer. It seemed very wet and I kept adding flour. I shaped the dough into two baguette sized loaves. Next time I think it will be better make shorter, larger in diameter loaves, or perhaps rounds. Also, I forgot the egg wash at the end.

Aside from those issues, the bread was very good. The texture was great, the flavor was great and the crust was great even without the egg wash. It wasn't all that much effort either. I will definitely make this recipe again.