It’s the best cookbook on the subject, and it sells for a price that’s simply unbeatable. These are gourmet recipes made simple—that’s their magic. Avner Laskin trained at the renowned Cordon Bleu school in Paris, but he knows that most home bakers haven’t, so he takes the intimidation out of the baking process with wonderfully easy-to-follow guidelines. With his help, making such delicacies as French-Style Brioche and Peach “Tarletette” Rolls become real possibilities for almost anyone. Laskin discusses the raw materials (wheat, cereals, and flours); goes through all the techniques, from kneading to shaping; and covers fermented, sponge, and sour doughs. Bake up Heavenly Apple-Cinnamon Bread, Amaretto Almond Rolls, Russian Chocolate Crunch Cake, plus a selection of superb sandwich, everyday, and festive breads.
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Artisan bread-baking is usually characterized as an arduous process, but Laskin, who trained at Paris's renowned Cordon Bleu culinary school, attempts to bring it to the masses-with mixed results-in this slim, highly visual baking book. After a brief overview of ingredients and techniques, he offers a wide range of appealing recipes, from Florida Citrus Brioche to Irish Potato Bread (though one might dispute whether some inclusions, such as pizza crust and blueberry muffins, are really "artisan"). The recipes are divided into seven sections, with the first part concentrating on sweeter breads and pastries and the second part on international offerings like the dense, strongly flavored Pyrenees Mountain Bread and the simple but toothsome Tuscan Bread. Many of these are sourdoughs, and Laskin includes a fairly detailed primer on how to make the crucial initial sourdough starter. However, elsewhere he omits useful details like what to look for in the dough consistency while mixing or how much the bread should rise in a given period. He also uses more yeast than is usually called for; this can make dough rise faster, but one loses some of the flavor for which artisan breads are prized. Those with bread experience might add a few of these recipes to their repertoires (like the Delicate Butter Bread), but beginners will discover that, while many of these recipes seem simple, they lack the detail necessary to walk them through the baking process.
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