Grandma is constantly asked to recommend bread baking cookbooks. Every time she mentions Bagels or English Muffins somebody asks for the recipe. She's had questions about the luscious rolls in the picture she is using for an icon (couldn't find anything else with the "real" computer in storage!). Earlier today, Grandma reviewed a little Kindle bread baking cookbook and mentioned that a brand spanking new book that arrived on her front porch yesterday afternoon and promised that she would reveal the book . . so, in the interest of answering all these questions for posterity, here goes.
In the interests of full disclosure, you should be aware that Grandma decided that since she recommends Amazon products all the time, it might not hurt to supplement her retirement income by becoming an Amazon associate. If you purchase something from Amazon from the links on my blog, I make a few pennies on it. Note that I do not include associate links in anything that I write on the Amazon website.
These are Grandma's Top All Time Best Books of Bread Baking -
Author George Greenstein, the son of an old-time bread baker from Central Europe and life long professional baker himself, wrote this book after he retired. This is the book that Grandma always recommends to new bread bakers. You'll find a great variety of recipes, numerous tips and tricks that Grandma can assure you work and a wealth of detailed information that will have you baking great bread in no time.
There are a couple of special things that Grandma particularly likes. Greenstein gives each recipe at least three ways - one with amounts and directions suitable for a small batch to bake by hand or with a smaller stand mixer like an entry level KitchenAid Classic 4-1/2-Quart Stand Mixer, another with modifications especially designed for a large food processor like this Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor, and a third that will turn out a larger batch of bread, intended for use with a large, heavy duty stand mixer like this KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer (the one Grandma owns.) Others have tried to copy this format, notably Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, but nowhere close to as successfully.
Professional bakers are expert multi-taskers and George's experience shines through in the special section he includes in the back of the book called "Twelve Menus: A Morning of Baking." In each menu he lays out a baking program that will guide you step by step in turning out a full week's worth of baked goods in a single morning.
Secrets of a Jewish Baker includes superb recipes for various Central European whole grain breads, excellent directions for braiding Challah, some wonderful sourdough starters and recipes, and Grandma's GoTo recipe for every day white sandwich bread. Recipes are often given in both "straight method" - put all the flour in at one, raise the dough, punch it down, perhaps raise it a second time, shape, raise and bake - and "sponge method" - put in part of the flour, raise the batter, add the remainder of the flour and any extra ingredients, shape, raise & bake. Here's the recipe Grandma often bakes for plain toast or sandwich bread:
Milk Bread, Sponge Method
2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter or shortening, softened
2/3 cup skim milk powder
2 - 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
Water or melted butter for brushing loaves
Sponge: In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and allow to stand for a few minutes to soften. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cover and set aside in a warm place until doubled in volume, 30-45 minutes.
Dough: Stir down the sponge. Add the sugar, butter, milk powder, 2 cups of the flour and the salt. Stir until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl, adding more flour 1/4 cup at a time if necessary.
Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead with a turn, fold, push motion, adding more flour in small amounts if the dough is sticky. Knead until the dough is smooth, elastic and springy (8-10 minutes). Cut the dough in half and shape into two equal rounds. Allow to rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
Shaping: Shape into 2 pan loaves. (See page **) Place the loaves, seam side down, in 2 greased 8- or 9-inch loaf pans. Place in a warm, draft free area, cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise until the loaves come up above the rims of the pans. Place the pans on a baking sheet. Slash lengthwise down the center of each loaf with a sharp knife or razor blade. Brush the tops with water or melted butter.
Baking: Preheat the oven to 375F. Bake with steam (see page **) on the middle shelf of the oven until the bread has a rich color and emits a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom with your fingertips (35 - 45 minutes). The loaves can be removed from the pans for the last five minutes of baking for crustier bread. Brush again with water or melted butter and let cool on a wire rack.
I bake this smaller batch of bread these days because there is just the one of me. However, I follow the kneading instructions that come with the large KA version of the recipe.
I use Saf Instant Yeast which comes in one pound packages. This 4-pack from Amazon costs $3-$5 less per pack than I have found it by the single package anywhere else. This particular yeast has a very lengthy shelf life and will keep indefinitely in the freezer. This is the same yeast often recommended at King Arthur flour. You should see the price!
If you would like a whole-wheat bread rather than plain white bread, substitute whole wheat flour for the flour in the sponge. Continue with all-purpose flour in the dough. Your sponge may take a bit longer to reach the doubled in bulk stage.
Grandma heard about Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice long before she ever acquired a copy of her own. It seemed like every baking blog site she visited was involved in the "BBA Challenge", baking their way through the book. They all posted lovely pictures. Nobody ever posted any recipes though, so eventually Grandma put the book on her Wish List and received not just one, but two copies from her daughters for Christmas a few years back. (The spare makes the rounds of the daughters these days!)
This is the book that Grandma finally - FINALLY - learned to bake bagels from and if I do say so myself, they are some of the best bagels on the planet. Grandma would love to share the recipe, but BBA is still in storage. Most of the breads you'll find in this book are of the "artisan" type and they are marvelous. I've tried many of them. His lavash (a Middle Eastern cracker-like flatbread) are lovely and quite easy to make.
The book also contains my GoTo English Muffin recipe. Have you ever accidentally forgotten a package of English Muffins on top of the refrigerator? Grandma did a couple of years ago. When she discovered them months later they weren't even molded and were still reasonably "fresh." Bread just is NOT supposed to last that long, so Grandma set out to master making English Muffins herself. Reinhart's , unlike most other recipes, do not require rings.
I do make one adjustment, however. Reinhart says to lay out the dough on a sheet of parchment paper to rise before you toast the muffins on the griddle. I cut 6 or 7-inch squares of parchment rather than one big sheet. That lets me handle the dough as little as humanly possible.
Not long after Santa brought Grandma an iPad, Grandma acquired the ebook version of The Practical Step-By-Step Guide to Baking Bread: 70 foolproof recipes for classic breads, shown in 350 photographs Very picture intensive, it is not available in Kindle format. Amazon does, however, carry the print version.
I can't tell you how much I love this book. First, all of the measurements are given in metric, in UK Imperial and in US Standard. No matter where you live in the world, you'll be able to bake from this straight out of the gate. There is a huge pictorial section of ingredients and techniques. Bread recipes are from all over the world, many of which Grandma was unfamiliar with. The recipe for wheat tortillas in this book is absolutely authentic, just like Grandma learned to make them on the Navajo reservation. There is also a wonderful section of Indian breads, including Missi Rotis, which Harvest Moon: Animal Parade fans will recognize as "curry bread."
Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking arrived on Grandma's doorstep yesterday and Grandma's friend Becky has been dying to know the name. Among other wonderful, marvelous features, this book features 19 pages of instructions and pictures demonstrating how to braid Challah! There are recipes for both bread and pastry, many of which you will be very familiar with. Even better, while the authors mention George Greenberg, there is almost no overlap between this book and Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World.
Grandma did just notice that Inside the Jewish Bakery is also available divided up into sections for the Kindle!
All of them are now on Grandma's Wish List! Grandma can't begin to tell you how much fun it is to take the iPad into the kitchen. Just zip it up in a 2 gallon zipper bag!