Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A new crop of bread books just in time for my birthday

I'll admit it readily - I am a cookbook junkie. I don't often cook things from the cookbooks I own (case in point - The French Laundry Cookbook - gastroporn at its finest but not something you'd actually want to cook from) but I read them like novels and drool over the pictures. I recently freecycled a couple of boxes of cookbooks I knew I'd never look at again and, even though I am not a packrat in the rest of my life, I will admit to a pang or two when this lot left my house. Thankfully, two long awaited bread books have come to take their place.

Anyone who knows me knows my complete obsession with no-knead bread, particularly the version introduced by Mark Bittman of the New York Times and Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery. Since I first discovered this bread four or so years ago I have baked hundreds of loaves and taught the technique to more people than I can even count. Imagine my excitement when I read that Jim Lahey had published a book called "My Bread." I decided to give myself a birthday present and buy the book (along with "Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day" - more about that later).

My friends, it is everything I hoped for and more. This is a guy who is serious about his bread and it shows in every aspect of this book, particularly the obsessively concise directions and the "food as still life" photography. Since I'm the obsessive type myself, this book spoke to me loud and clear.

Some of the recipes sound so fantastic I can hardly wait for the weekend to bake, particularly fennel-raisin bread (candied fennel stalks combined with fennel juice, Pernod and golden raisins - I'm in heaven), carrot bread (carrot juice instead of water) and the various pizzas. My hubs and kids are a little bit over the whole homemade pizza every Friday night thing but this week they have no choice. How could you not want to make (and eat!) cauliflower pizza or fennel pizza or Pizza Bianca?

Now, on to the other book. I really enjoyed "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day," the first book from the authors, Hertzberg and Francois. The brioche in particular was spectacularly good and I like the idea of making a large quantity of dough and baking it to order over the course of two weeks.

What they've done with this book is use the same technique with various whole grain and even gluten free breads. I didn't expect to get quite as jazzed as I was for Jim Lahey's (they are a wee bit less serious) but I found myself getting pretty excited. I'm thinking brown rice bread or oatmeal date bread sound good as my first breads from this book.

Its going to be a busy weekend.