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Monday, June 15, 2009

REVIEW: Food Book -- Kneadlessly Simple (Wiley)


KNEADLESSLY SIMPLE; fabulous, fuss-free, no-knead breads (John Wiley & Sons, 2009, 210 pages, ISBN 978-0-470-39986-6, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Nancy Baggett, a food writer known principally for her dessert cookbooks (one was a Beard winner). Here she riffs off of Jim Lahey's successful no-knead slow-rise French bread recipe as captured by Mark Bittman (October, 2006, New York Times) by extending the concept to all kinds of yeast breads. Lahey's was not the first, but it seemed to be the most popular as evidenced by its spread through the Internet. Baggett has made changes, such as using ice water and refrigeration to slow down the biga. Log rolling is by baking authors Peter Reinhart and Nick Malgieri. The 75 recipes here are a boon to harried cooks and bakers everywhere. The secret to good bread making, whether you knead or not, is simply a long, slow rise. You'll only need one bowl, one spoon, some simple steps to follow, and minimal cleanup. What you will get is artisanal bread that is thick, crusty, with moderately sized holes in the crumb. Her details and instructions are precise, with a range of rising times to suit your own schedule. And of course, she has a troubleshooting section. It is worth the effort to read about how to convert your favourite old bread recipe into the newer mode, for then you can convert most anything. There is a 32 page section on "easiest ever yeast breads", followed by specific chapters on American favourites, Old World classics, multi-grain and gluten-free breads, and sweet breads. She believes that the best yeast for the slow rise is bread machine yeast because it does not need to be re-hydrated – and don't use cake or compressed yeast. The basic technique takes nine steps, and is explained on pages 1 to 3. Each prep here usually has variations.

Audience and level of use: bakers

Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: cheddar bread; farmhouse potato bread with dill and olives; English muffin loaves; crusty yeasted cornbread; challah.

The downside to this book: the emphasis in the book is on "knowing the rules before breaking them", which I wholeheartedly agree with, but may rub some people the wrong way in these permissive times.

The upside to this book: each recipe has a rating for its ease of preparation.

Quality/Price Rating: 89.



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