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on 8 November 2003
After messing around with other less-than-perfect books on Bread Making (particularly the very disappointing "Rustic European Breads: From Your Bread Machine" by Eckhardt & Butts) I took the chance and ordered this book.
Like the other reviewer, I can't stress enough how great the author's simple and consistent approach to bread making is, and especially the sections on starters, making, keeping and feeding them!
I'm also often a little suspicious of American books, citing ingredients, measurements and methods which just don't seem to work, but having tried at least 50% of the recipes in this book, I'm yet to experience a failure!
This book has truly allowed me to indulge a passion which has been lurking in me for many many years. I've now been able to embody it in the creation of some truly wonderful bread!
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on 20 December 2002
The author provides a clear discussion of how to make excellent bread. He gave step-by-step instructions, he also explain the chemistry and mechanics of breadmaking.
Most of the other baking books describe the starter making and keeping processes as an odd combination of science and sorcery. This author makes it easy to understand.
The most valuable part is the discussion of starters. Making really good bread generally requires use of some form of prefermenation or starter. Beside, the section on shaping dough is photographed, clear and easy understand.
The book is well written and very readable. The author does a great job of leading you through the steps of making great bread.
If you want to experiment with artisan bread baking and various starters, I highly recommend this book.
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on 28 November 2008
Although the author has a considerable reputation and the book is very good in places I found it less comprehensive than I had hoped.
I have tried 10 of the recipes since owning the book (just a couple of weeks). I have baked about 8 loaves a week for the past decade so I have a moderate amount of experience in home bread making.

I have three issues:

The recipes appear to be authentic and the explanations are clear but that does not mean you are going to like all the different kinds of bread. I found the bagels (extremely time consuming to make) a real dissapointment. They looked great but tasted nothing like any bagel I had ever tasted. To be fair the author does say this is a traditional water bagel and not a commercial bagel. But in a book that champions tasty bread I found this unimpressive. The explanations of why different ingredients effect the outcome and flavour are very good.

The author is very keen on long fermentation to improve the flavour and the are lots of two stage two day recipes. Dissapointingly I have not yet been able to detect the flavour enhancement that deserves all this extra preparation (nor has my family). I would have been happier if the book had contained more angles on bread making. I feel that the author has collected lots of lengthy recipes because he believes this is the best way to make bread. I had expected a greater variety of approaches.

And last but not least. Why only imperial measurements? What happened to metric?

This is not a book for a beginner. If you want to purchase a single book on bread making I would not recommend it. As part of a library it is a very good reference book.
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on 19 July 2010
In common with other reviewers of this book I mostly agree on its thorough and inclusive content. It is comprehensive, in what it sets out to do and anyone wishing to know more about the 'hows and whys' of bread making would gain insight from reading this book. The author clearly has a vast working knowledge of his subject and obviously enjoys trying to communicate this to his audience. Be aware however this an American book with an American audience in mind, in more ways than measurement. I will confine my comments to four areas you may wish to consider before buying:
a) If you don't already have them you will need to buy a set of American measuring cups as the ounce measurements are, bizarrely, converted as decimals ( 0.39 ounces of Yeast for example or 2.67 ounces of Honey), rendering precision a little redundant. Although one reviewer clearly does not have a problem with doing their own conversion from cups and ounces to grams - suggesting that it is so easy to do - it does rather beg the question, if it is so easy why has it not been given here?
b) The lay-out is at times a little confusing eg the Pre-ferments (Biga ,Poolish , Balm etc) are not all in one place. This requires a certain amount of going backwards and forwards through the book. The referencing is however excellent so this doesn't pose too much of a problem.
c) The recipes are almost exclusively from French, American and Italian recipes. Those wishing for a comprehensive review of world breads would do better looking elsewhere. Indian breads are completely absent as are, with one exception from each, Scandinavian, English and German breads.
Finally, d) The writing style of the Author is at times little bloated, to say the least. You will need to steel yourself against sentences such as: 'The yang of Ferrandi, its anchorage in very specific methodologies, is the yin of the American approach' or 'It is the idea of pressing into new frontiers of bread making, of realising that there are still areas of exploration not charted ....We are learning that as we deconstruct the bread-making process, we are still in the early stages of what is possible.... as so often shown up on ancient maps 'Unknown Kingdoms Be Here'".
Then again we are talking about 'Pain a L'Ancienne' here and not just any old loaf of bread. We have to recognise for a certain class of Americans, and English for that matter, the merest whiff of the Tricolore renders them quite insensible.
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on 14 September 2007
This book is quite informative and interesting but suffers from the drawback of having been written for a US audience only. Most of the cultural references will simply be meaningless to a british or european audience but that isnt really a problem. The problem is the units.
Being British I am just about comfortable weighing things out in pounds and ounces, though my scales being non-antique have kilograms as the larger markings. To the authors credit the recipes are weight based but those who use the volume conversions in the book may find themselves scuppered by the difference in volume between a US "cup" and those found in other countries that use the term. The biggest gripe however is that all temperatures are in Fahrenheit. I have never in my 29 years seen an oven that is calibrated in Fahrenheit outside the US. It is possible in the UK to purchase oven thermometers graded in Fahrenheit on the secondary scale but they are harder to find and the secondary scale is much harder to read without taking the thermomenter out of the oven.
It seems to me that if a publisher has any intention of releasing a book outside the US then they ought to take the trouble of changing the parochial units to ones in common use.
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on 23 June 2015
I bought this book some time ago, and have had the opportunity to test most of the recipes and techniques. It is simply brilliant. Many of the bread books around do not cover the basic techniques, and some are "trendy" nonsense. This book is easy to read, is scientific in approach, and results are extremely good. One thing I do like also is the ability to work in percentages as well as weights. For example, flour weight x 0.6 water on my calculator gives me the desired hydration regardless of weight or whether working in metric or imperial. The advice on sourdough is very sound. I read complaints about a recent publication that made all of its breads using sour dough starter, but the results were variable. Well of course they are using wild yeast and bacteria that vary from place to place. Perhaps if the author of that publication had been more explicit his pupils would have tailored expectations. After all, I don't live in San Francisco, and the wild yeasts here in Australia, and local bacteria differ....but I get good results, but some variation between batches. For any serious amateur bread-maker....this book stands out in the crowd. Finally the book includes simple recipes for a wide variety of breads....from common techniques such as preparing poolish or biga or pate fermente, to great white bread, excellent bagels, to brioche to challah, to sourdough rye and many more. And it teaches you how to braid, fold, etc.
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on 12 January 2014
Our youngsters refer to the kitchen at home as 'the laboratory'. Of all the experimenting that goes on, the most delight is found in bread making. Peter Reinhart's informed, beautifully illustrated, well-bound (thread-sewn, hard-cover) guide combines his extensive practical experience as a bread-maker with fascinating information about the chemistry of what is taking place when one bakes bread. This is not a recipe book, although it contains a wealth of recipes, and it is not a 'how to' cookery book, although it contains detailed useful instructions. It is an essential artisan's companion for anyone interested in the art and craft of making a variety of good, workman-like breads.
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There really are a lot of good, professional bread making books available, nowadays and this is definitely one of them. There are a good range of bread recipes in the book, several of which come from world beating bakeries, but the book, as the title suggests, is a training manual. This is not to say that the casual reader will not get a lot of good recipes and you could ignore much of the training information if you are a half competent bread maker; but this misses the point of the book. The Bread Maker's Apprentice is a book to read, to absorb the value of what is being taught and to learn, not merely to be a better bread maker, but to make bread to a very high standard, to develop "a feel for the dough." There is plenty of good advice and training out there - Paul Hollywood can be seen on iPlayer, for instance and there are countless youtube videos on technique and demonstrations of the bread making process - all of which is good. This book begins with the preparation, from the mise en place, the putting together of all the ingredients and equipment, to the preparation of the ferment and all of the things that make good bread extraordinary before you begin to form it and put it into the oven. There is a good back story to the book, including how the author wins a competition and spends a week visiting the bakeries of Paris, encounters Poilane and discovers Pain a l'ancienne, which becomes life changing. This is a book for real bread aficionados - no pretensions here, it really is for people who love the whole panoply of what it means to make good bread by hand and bake it to perfection.
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on 12 March 2008
A great book with some excellent ideas. Major drawback is that all weights and measures are in "cups". Not an easy method to grasp when most of the world uses "mils" or "grams".

Cooking times are very ambitious, ie if I cook any of my bread for the 45 minutes stated in a lot of recipes I will end up with charcoal.

That being said, for the person who uses recipe books as a guide, and not as an instruction book, this is an excellent read.
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on 24 February 2011
Very quickly after buying this book, I found the self important Peter Reinhart getting right up my nose. Published for the USA market, this book is of dubious value to UK residents, pretentious and long winded the bulk of it`s content contains egotistical self praise, with an afterthought of self deprecation.

The recipes are over complicated with amounts shown only in USA measurements (Cups, half cups, threequarter cups)and old imperial ounces. Bread making is and always has been, unbelievebly simple, this book tries it`s best to make breadmaking a mysterious art.

At nearly £[], it`s quite the worst value of any breadmaking book I have purchased, if perhaps it`s meant to be left on coffee tables, to impress visitors! then I suppose it`s perfect.
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