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THE BEST for Artisan Baking
This has become my go-to book for anything other than quick breads or sandwich breads (the kind with milk, fat, eggs, sugar, etc.) Even if I start with a type of bread or recipe from another source, I check to see what Artisan Baking has to say on the topic.
Although I'm a hobbyist, not a professional baker, it looks to me like Artisan Baking could be a textbook. It talks about the ingredients, equipment and techniques. There's lots of depth--not just about flour, but wheat, for instance--or you can treat it as just a recipe book, or as a recipe book with instructions. On the other hand, if you're a tyro, the book tells you how to start, and how to keep going on for professional-level results. It does help to already know what bread is.
The descriptions of the bakeries and bakers whose breads appear in the book are entertaining in their own right, but also help illustrate some of the range of types of breads, the methods used, and the environments in which these bakers work.
When my nephew said he was interested in getting started baking breads, I had no hesitation in mentioning this book to Santa Claus.
Two minor quibbles about the book: This book is almost exclusively about naturally-fermented (i.e., sourdough) breads. For my tastes, that's not much of a defect. Slightly more serious is that reference materials, like how to maintain your starter, and how to increase it for use, is buried in the body of the book, rather that being in a chart or appendix. After a couple of months, the book falls open to the desired page, so that's not much of an issue either.
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