Top critical review
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A curates egg
on 10 May 2017
Peter Reinhart is a man who clearly takes his bread very seriously indeed. This is a comprehensive book, full of information, opinion and expertise and (potentially) great recipes. So why only 3 stars?
I can forgive the excessive earnestness, the tendency to overcomplicate recipes and the pointed 'you student, me master' tone of the recipes. Perhaps he's overcompensating for the fact he's an American presenting his take on what are largely European traditional recipes. What I find totally ridiculous are the measurements he uses. Firstly, anyone who is so pernickerty about bakers percentages should know that volume measurements are inaccurate, yet here they are, the dreaded US cups and spoon measurements. I guess this is appeasing his US market. But it becomes ridiculous when he helpfully converts the measurements to ounces. 0.17 of an ounce anyone? Has the guy never heard of metric??? He talks at length about his trip to Paris bakeries but obviously sensible units of measurement didn't rub off on him.
My copy of the book is now scrawled with conversions. Despite all the detail, these aren't dead cert recipes either. For example, unhelpful terms like "room temperature". Well, my room is 17C degrees today, and will be 25C degrees in the height of summer. See the problem? Huge differences in proving times. Flour will vary. A lot. These recipes need worrying at to get just right for your kitchen, just like any other bread recipe.
Secondly, this is not an ideal book for beginners or impatient people unless you have serious nerd tendencies and love the jargon. If you just want to make a loaf of bread, godammit, then try Paul Hollywood. If you want to make a really good loaf of bread and recipes without the Hipster overtones, perhaps venture into sourdough, then I recommend Andrew Whitley, "Bread Matters", a much more down to earth book once you get past his rants about modern bread making practices.
I don't regret buying this book - there's some great stuff in there and recipes you won't find anywhere else but I'm glad I didn't buy it before I'd learnt to make bread. It would have put me right off.