A Passion for Bread Review

Breadmaking is one of those things I used to think was best left up to the experts. I would look at people who were making their own bread and almost feel sorry for them because they were spending so much time and energy making something that they could easily go to the store and buy for a few bucks. Nowadays there are so many artisan breadmakers that you can find a beautiful loaf of fresh bread within a few miles, and even basic grocery stores usually have a few good choices.

But in the last few years I have gotten more interested in breadmaking. It's a pretty magical process and very satisfying to make a beautiful loaf of bread. It all started with My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey, the famous book that was going around for a while where you make an artisan loaf in a dutch oven. And then I branched out to a sandwich bread recipe I found on Apartment Therapy, with pretty decent results. So when I saw A Passion for Bread: Lessons from a Master Baker, I was really interested. I was provided an ebook copy of this cookbook to review from the publisher.

First off, I read through the introduction of the book with great interest, whereas I usually just skim cookbook introductions. The author, who is French, went through a centuries-old apprenticeship process in France that lasted for years and took him all around the world. Only the French would have such a wonderful process! In this day and age, people are afraid to eat carbs and gluten for no good reason really, and it is great to be reminded that bread is such a basic building block of culture that the French would carry out these long apprenticeships for bakers just like any other craftsperson.

Breadmaking can be an intimidating process, and I thought A Passion for Bread: Lessons from a Master Baker did a great job of demystifying it. First, the author, despite being a French master and having all this education and experience, has a very warm writing voice that is not intimidating at all. He obviously loves to teach and wants the students to learn from his book. The instructions are clear and there are lots of photos ot help you along with the process.

I chose to try out the Ciabatta recipe, and made the variation that makes ciabatta rolls. First, let's just look at a photo of the beautiful dough before its first rise.
There's something about bread dough that is just so primal and exciting, especially when it is turning out perfectly. One time I was letting some dough rise on the countertop and during the last fermentation when it was set to go into the oven in just a few minutes, I dropped a glass jar from a high shelf and it broke all over the countertop into the dough. I cried. It was a disaster. 

But luckily, this time nothing of the sort happened. I'm not going to drag this post out any longer with step-by-step photos of the process, but here was the final result. I actually kind of screwed up this dough in about seventeen different ways, but since the recipe was good and the book had wonderful photos of each step along the process, I was still able to make these lovely rolls. Note: astute readers will notice the dough was folded in half right before baking- that was an improv on my part because when I handled them, they kind of stretched out too much. That wasn't something the book asked me to do. There were two more, but they were still in the oven when I took the photo. 

Ciabatta rolls
These turned out so yummy. I am definitely making these again and will try other recipes in A Passion for Bread: Lessons from a Master Baker in the future!

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