I must begin by agreeing with other reviewers who said that this is an 'ideal book for a specific audience'. However, I don't think this true for people who are only interested in baking whole wheat breads, this book should be of interest to people interested in bread baking in general. How can you truly master the art of bread baking without mastering whole grains? Especially since it was the original and oldest baking medium throughout history.
I had previously bought numerous bread baking books, some were very good some were a bit of a let down, but one thing they all had in common was that they didn't discuss baking with whole grains. Therefore, I had assumed that the methods and techniques that applied to white flour applied to whole wheat flour, but I always ended up with dense logs that weren¡¦t really that good to eat... they had a very hard and dense crumb that I was really choking down to avoid admitting failure in front of the family! :)
In the past, I always used all purpose flour and, as I later found out, due to the low amount of gluten in the flour, the loaves were not developing and rising sufficiently. Once I had figured that out and during one of my trips to the local flour mills to buy a 55lb sack of high gluten flour, I was tempted to buy also buy a sack of high protein whole wheat flour as well, despite my may failed attempts in the past (but I assumed it was due to the low gluten as with the white all purpose flour... I was very wrong). After making several attempts with this new high protein whole wheat flour and getting the same old results, despite making several tweaks (although the partial whole grain breads were turning out slightly better because of the white flour content... I realized that I needed help. I had already planned on buying The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread and noticed this book as well and thought that such a highly acclaimed author of such a successful baking book must be able to unlock this mystery, so I bought the two together because I wasn't really worried about the white flour going bad... I was more concerned about the whole wheat flour!
The difference I have noticed with Peter Reinhart's writing style and the level of technical knowledge and details in this book far exceeds all the bread baking books I have in my library! The author clearly has astonishing knowledge and passion when it comes bread baking, this is extremely clear in this book!
I have to admit that the section on his personal experimentation with whole grains dragged on a bit and was slightly longer than what I am used to in terms of culinary books, but it was refreshing and reassuring to read that a seasoned baker struggled with whole grains like I did (and I'm sure many people have and do)!
Also, a word of caution when reading this book, do not jump the gun like I did and immediately begin making the wild yeast mother starter, which is the first set of directions that you will encounter in this book, as it is not necessary for many recipes... have some patience and read through the entire instructional section and then you can flip through the recipes and pick and choose, like I do with most culinary books.
For all those people who are new to bread baking, bread baking is a time consuming thing. It's not something that we working people do every day of the week when we barely have time to sit back and unwind! People who are used to bread baking already know this... the techniques in this book are even more time consuming ad stretch out over days to make the wild yeast culture... luckily for me though, given the summer, most of the resting time required was slashed by half as the mashes and mixtures were bubbling and active in one day as opposed to the suggested maximum of two days. So do not expect that this book will teach you how to make really great whole wheat bread in a snap bread, regardless of the flour used, doesn't happen in a few minutes... like all good things in this life, it takes time.
The level of knowledge and scientific details in this book is great! I love it... I'm one of those people who always wonder why things happen they way they do and the author really goes down into chemistry and how same species of the same grain can vary greatly depending on the growing season and what the differences are to much much more! Trust me, it will leave no question unanswered in your mind!
After reading these sections and going into the details of the other recipes in the book, I have attempted to make whole wheat baguettes and let me say that the result was two magnificently beautiful crisp and well risen whole wheat baguettes with beautiful crumbs!! I was so happy with the result was going around the house with the baguettes still in the baguette tray showing them to everyone like a kid!!
Next to try on my list from the recipes in this book are the whole wheat pita, pizza dough, and challah bread!
This has got to be the ultimate whole wheat book ever to hit the market!