20 March 2010

Ode to The Bread Baker's Apprentice

Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice (2001) is an amazing book.  I had not even heard about it until several months ago, after serendipitously spotting it in the food and cookbook section of the local library.  I was immediately struck by the enthusiastic, vastly detailed information about all things bread, as well as the myriad recipes for assorted yeast-risen delights.  Unfortunately, I was unable to try any of the book's recipes prior to the return date, leading to a few more months Apprentice-less while jealously hearing of other bloggers' praise of what is apparently a widely-treasured tome.  But now I have a copy to reference at will, and I consider that more than just a little exciting.

Although the recipe portion of Reinhart's book is composed almost entirely of recipes for yeast-risen bread, the first I officially attempted (I say "officially" because my first attempt at an Apprentice recipe was for Ciabatta, but only part of the recipe was viewable online, so I had to wing it at the end) was the Cornbread, which is the only chemically-leavened bread listed.  That Reinhart found this particular version worthy enough to include in his book, as well as my own curiosity, love of cornbread, and approval of the quick and easy method involved in making the bread were enough to get me to give the recipe a go.  With a few substitutions to make it vegan (including the omission of bacon), the cornbread was done in even less time than the recipe called for--not that cornbread or quick breads in general ever take much time at all.  The bread was chock-full of corn, unlike any cornbread I've ever tried, but it made the bread very moist and slightly sweet.  I can only imagine that sans bacon, my vegan version of the bread is probably missing a salty or savory flavor, but nonetheless, it is still pretty tasty.

My substitutions/alterations: substituted part whole wheat pastry flour, used nondairy milk soured with apple cider vinegar rather than buttermilk, omitted bacon and bacon fat, used agave nectar rather than honey, replaced eggs with equal weight of nondairy soy yogurt.

Because I had been eyeing the recipe for Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire since first borrowing Apprentice from the library, I decided to attempt it before trying any of the other yeast breads.  It was easy to veganize the recipe, and given my affinity to bread baking, I was fairly confident that following the method as closely as possible would yield a nearly perfect loaf.  And it probably would have been nearly perfect, had I not suddenly needed to leave the house 30 minutes after forming the loaf.  The second rise should only have been an hour and a half long.  With hopes that refrigerating the dough would retard the rise enough to prevent over-rising, I left the pan in the fridge for longer than the recipe's specified 90 minutes.  Of course, because the dough had already risen adequately and crested over the lip of the loaf pan by the time I left the house, refrigerating the dough did not retard the rise, allowing the dough to continue to grow and mushroom over the sides.  Fortunately, the bread didn't cave in while baking, but it did make removing the pan a little difficult.  Nonetheless, the resulting loaf was soft and slightly sweet, with a thin, golden crust and lovely texture, namely from the corn meal.  Reinhart suggests eating toasted slices of the bread, which I'm sure is fabulous, though I have yet to taste it that way.  I very much enjoyed trimming the overhang from the top crust when the bread was still warm, only a half hour out of the oven.

My substitutions/alterations: replaced wheat bran with oat bran (because I realized late that I only had the latter), honey with agave, milk with nondairy milk; incorporated whole wheat flour while kneading to achieve a pliable, non-sticky dough. 

I think the next recipe I'll tackle will be for Anadama Bread.  I have never tried this type of bread, but based upon how much I've enjoyed the recipes attempted so far, I am sure to like this next one (and others) as well.


  1. I agree that this book is great! I've been baking a lot of no-knead breads lately, but for a traditional loaf, this is my favorite resource.

  2. Tiffany,
    I cannot find that book anywhere!!!
    After reading billions of recipes on vegan dad, all of which are bread from the bakers apprentice, I have a little built up angst against it....lol
    I have found the joy of vegan baking, but it is not the same....
    Thanks for popping by! I enjoy it when you visit!

  3. I love that book! Your bread looks amazing!

  4. Your bread looks really good!!
    I ll make it tomorrow :)

  5. What a soft, lovely loaves! Really, nothing compares to homemade bread, no matter what sort... :)

  6. I love Peter Reinhart's books.They tought me so much about baking. I totally forgot about that cornbread.

  7. Hey Tiffany, thank you so much for your thoughts for my family. xoxo

  8. I love that book! Your bread looks amazing!


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