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The Bread Bible
So often I have been asked how I learned to bake. I really started baking in my late teens for my boyfriend; he encouraged me by happily eating absolutely everything I baked. I believe that baking for someone you love is the core of a home baker's impetus; a sometimes difficult task is turned into a nourishing labor of love when the care you put into your baking is appreciated. But it was the repetitive baking daily for seven years in a small restaurant that taught me my trade; that is how I built my confidence as a baker. I went from struggling to control a large mass of dough on the work table and wondering what to do with a dough that did not rise in time to be baked for lunch to being very confident juggling four large ovens all baking different kinds of breads, muffins, and sweet rolls. I was able to develop my skills directly from the experience of baking the same recipe repeatedly over the years, some well over a thousand times. Thus my baking mantra: practice practice practice...
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Bread
As for most writers, I always wanted to write a book of some type. I was browsing in a bookstore one night in 1985 and picked up a flat, thin book with lots of stunning, full page photographs that was different than the look of the other cookbooks. The book was Salad published by Chronicle Book in San Francisco and it was by Amy Nathan, a food stylist, in conjunction with Kathryn Kleinman, a Bay Area photographer with a special sensitivity for food visuals. I said, now this is what I want my book to look like.

Not 6 months later I was catering lunch for an advertising shoot for a photographer across the street from the St. Michael’s Alley restaurant, where I was the head baker. The photographer, Victor Budnick, approached me and asked if I wanted to write a book about bread. Of course I knew the eye of the needle when I saw it and I immediately said YES!, even though I did not know the first thing about writing a cookbook. Victor was looking for projects after winning the coveted IACP Tastemaker award for his photos on a grilling book and I was a lucky recipient of his need. His wife, Dianne McKenzie, acted as my agent, and I met David Barish, the acquisitions editor at Chronicle Books, and Tom Ingalls, a talented designer. The team was in place for me to have a book in the style, feel, and format just like Salad. I proceeded to write down all the recipes I had been making for the past 15 years. Dianne helped me choose the recipe list. I included all the breads I made for the restaurant, as well as my homemade breads that I had been making since the late 1960s.

Not being computer savvy in 1985, I wrote the book on a lined yellow pad, Lillian Hellman style, just like a living testament connected to all the old writers before me without a typewriter. I should have saved all those messy sheets and donated them to the Smithsonian for posterity to remind myself of the grief involved with the writing process of that first book. I had a typing service make the finished copies to turn in. It was a long, laborious process since I did not know how to write a recipe, which means a sloppy job at best since recipe writing is a skill within itself.

I turned in the manuscript and was edited by the wonderful Carolyn Miller, a food writer herself, who almost threw her hands up in frustration there was so much editing to be done to make the recipes cohesive. I sort of looked on deaf, dumb, and blind, since I had no idea where to go from there. Victor did the luscious photography and I did all the baking at his studio kitchen. Karen Hazarian was the adorable and organized stylist. The dramatic still life cover of baguettes in a wire basket Victor had laying around the studio was black and sophisticated, balanced visually, and emotionally inviting, not like anything I had seen before. I was really thrilled. Thus was the birth of Bread.

I included lots of white breads (make the challah first thing and be amazed at your skill), whole wheat breads (Italian Whole Wheat is the best), savory picnic breads, sweet rolls, dinner rolls (make the yogurt poppy seed rolls for dinner some time), and a short section with a few quick breads such as muffins, biscuits, scones, tea breads, and coffee cakes. The sandwich buns are great: sesame long rolls, black bread rolls, water rolls, and the BEST onion rolls, which I made all the time at the bakery. The sweet breads include chocolate bread, cashew date bread, and the best Babka with a choice of fillings. I tossed in some jams and my best lemon curd (mixed in the food processor), croustades, toasts, mustards, and cheese spreads. There is even a section on how to use alcoholic beverages as a flavor enhancer in bread doughs. This is a simple bread book compared to the artisan books and encyclopedia of world breads flooding the market today, but if you like to bake, this is for you. I only planned on writing one book on bread and ended up writing 13, a bakers’ dozen.
Celeste's Sunflower-Oatmeal Bread
Black Russian Rye Bread
 
Baking Bread: Old and New Traditions
I never imagined I would write a second book on breadmaking. Really I didn't know I had it in me, but surprise surprise. I most certainly did. Bread was quite a dark horse that it was so popular and so Baking Bread was its companion volume. Another 100 recipes but this time focusing on the sponge method for making homemade artisan-style country breads, both in the French and American traditions.
 

Nominee IACP
Julia Child
Cookbook Awards
I was really able to reflect the fabulous bakers I was exposed to in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I was working with a little known artisan baker at the time who had been baking at Joyce Goldstein's now defunct Square One restaurant in San Francisco. Thomas Solis just demystified the entire process and allowed me to use his Italian Country Bread in this book. I focused on some introducing whole grain "alternate" flours (like blue cornmeal) past whole wheat flour and how to use them. In 1992, this was a bit before the trend that is mainstream now in breadmaking. I put an entire section on crostini and bruschette, and pairing bread and cheese, both passions of mine. You will find lots of picnic breads (try the Eggplant, Pepper, and Artichoke Torta), dinner rolls, brioches, yeasted waffles, holiday breads (Pernod Panettone and Dried Cherry and Pineapple Stolen are the best), yeasted coffeecakes (the whole wheat maple blueberry braid is a must), pizza, the best brioche (which I learned from the incredible cook Donna Nordin), little buns from English muffins to bagels, burger buns, and croissants, and delicious spreads of all persuasion (try the date cream cheese). I see variations on these breads in all sorts of bread books now. The cover is photographed by Joyce Oudkirk Pool and is one of the most evocative of earthy breadmaking. There are lots of photos in Baking Bread, so even if you don't bake, you can still dream.
Farmhouse White Bread with Cardamon
Old-Fashioned 100 Percent Whole-Wheat Bread
 
Bread For All Seasons
Another incredibly personal bread book, this time I divided the recipes seasonally: Springtide, Sun Food, Autumn and Harvest, and Winter Darkness. In the text I was able to delve for the first time into the history of breadmaking in the European tradition with a dash of mysticism and folk wisdom of the seasonal cycle thrown in. It is a winner. I was able to go deeper into breadmaking with lots of variations and experimentation, which worked beautifully.
 

Nominee IACP
Julia Child
Cookbook Awards
I also was able to write about decorating and celebration breads in depth. This is not a cookbook just for the coffee table, but the photographs by Victoria Pearson, who is a longtime contributor to Martha Stewart magazine, are stunning. And it is not easy to photograph a lump of bread over and over, so it is testament to her creative vision. I love this review that is over ten years old on Amazon.com. It says it all: "After a couple of weeks, I started to skim through it out of boredom (instead of leaving it unopened on the coffee table). I could not put it down. The recipes themselves are enough to make this a book well worth having (although they are somewhat complicated and can be intimidating for the beginning bread baker) but the photographs are mouth-watering as well. And the text that accompanies each section of the book, both in the introductions to the seasons and the introductions to each recipe, are essays unto themselves, worthy of note. If the passing of the seasons has meaning for you, for whatever reason, and you like to bake or just eat bread, you NEED this cookbook." My friend and cook of everything Mexican, Jacquie McMahan, took the Pumpkin Spice Swirl and made sweet rolls she wrote about in the San Francisco Chronicle that are now famous. The Potato Cinnamon rolls came from a friend's mother's recipe. The Mediterranean White Bread with Fennel came from a little known cookbook written by some San Francisco interior designers. Don't miss the Sweet Vanilla Challah, which charmed the photography staff. White Oatmeal Potato Bread I have been making since the 1970s and I think I got it from the original Vegetarian Epicure. The Greek Feta Buns were contributed by long time baker and friend, Lou Pappas. The Limpa is from Judy Larsen's mother again (I added wild rice to jazz it up). The Tuscan Peasant Bread, which is a must-make, is from a newspaper article sent to me from New Jersey by my Aunt Marge. The recipe turned out to be by Egi Maccioni, the wife of Sirio Maccioni, owner of one of Manhattan's most famous restaurants, Le Cirque. Egidiana, a renowned cook in her own right, is said to be responsible for bringing crème brulee to the American public as a dessert at their restaurant. I cant believe if my aunt had not sent that old clipping from her local newspaper that i would never have had the chance to make Egi's version of salt-free Tuscan bread, which is one of my coveted recipes.

Also published in a Japanese Language Edition.
Italian Whole-Wheat Walnut-Raisin Bread
White Fog Bread with Quinoa and Honey
 
Beth's Basic Bread Book
If you know anyone just starting off baking, get them this book, nicknamed The 4 Bs, pronto. I put all of my knowledge into these pages to organize the baking procedure and chose recipes that would guarantee success to the most timid of fledgling bakers whom I consider apprentice bakers. I speak as a teacher to student and give an orientation to the process of bread baking that is easy to understand. Interested in making pita, Swedish rye bread, buttermilk dinner rolls, a deep dish pizza, the best oatmeal bread, Jewish egg braid to make you famous, and the caramel rolls taught to me by Judy Larsen, my first baking teacher who really helped make me evolve into the baker I am today. While you might think basics not exciting, I guarantee these recipes can make you famous-a swirled Pecan Brioche (you will never find a better special occasion sweet bread), Cottage Cheese Dill Bread I used to make at the restaurant, Cinnamon Swirl that everyone wants to make as soon as possible, Cornmeal Honey Bread, and Hungarian Sweet Cheese Bread that has a heart of soft sweet cheese and an apricot brandy glaze. While it is a specialty to make Danish Pastries, this recipe I learned from master baker Diane Dexter back in the 1980s and I thrilled every person I ever brought a tin of these as a gift. Homemade Danish has the power to transform a meal. The recipes are set up in teaching style and nothing is left to figure out: headnote tips, appearance guide, equipment, baking pans and yields, temperature, working timetable, clearly defined steps, notes from me and an overview of the specific skills you have used. There is an extensive pantry, the baking process broken down as a reference with everything you ever need to know, the best glazes and how to use them, and special techniques for shaping, freezing guide, baking substitutions for allergies, toasting nuts and melting chocolate, and how to use baking stones for a simulated brick oven that every baker should utilize.

The photographs by New Yorker Ilisa Katz are really superb and completely elemental with virtually no extra props. The bread stands alone.

Also published in a Japanese Language Edition.
Jewish Egg Braid
Old-fashioned Winter Oatmeal Bread
 
Breads of the Southwest
I had a brainstorm to do a regional bread book, including recipes from Alaska and Hawaii to California and Georgia. I did a lot of work researching and submitted the proposal to Judith Jones at Knopf. She turned me down cold, saying it wasn't very interesting. I was crushed but not defeated. Well of course 10 years later, a number of regional bread books did appear along with a rash on artisan baking, but none the way I would want to write it. What remained from that expansive idea was the region of the American Southwest and I was able to write it for Chronicle accented with the incredible photography of Laurie Smith. The cover is one of my favorites with that red tablecloth, so deliciously alive and homey at the same time. I studied the breads of the area in three stages--the history which is thick with Native American style with respect to ancient cooking methods and indigenous plants, the Spanish kitchen/missionary contributions and the horno outdoor oven, and the modern Southwest cuisine that is one of the most adventurous and delicious of all regional baking today (green chile brioche for example). It was divided into the Old Southwest Bakery and New Southwest Bakery. I received many letters from people who grew up in the Southwest and how much they appreciated having the recipes that reminded them of home and family. I included quick breads (muffins, coffeecakes, cornbreads, pancakes (Harvey Girl Orange Pancakes!), waffles, biscuits, and scones), goat cheese spreads, and jams (make the red pepper jelly immediately) which include native fruits such as chokecherry, prickly pear, red chile, peach honey and dried apple butter, along with the yeasted breads, sopapillas, and Spanish holiday breads. There is an extensive section on tortilla making. This is preserving an entire genre of baking that is not reflected in any other place in America and this is a book I am so very proud of.
Hominy Tortillas
Taos Pumpkin Bread
 
The Pleasures of Whole Grain Baking
This is a book again that I had great passion and conviction writing and it was published a bit before its time. When I started baking bread, I could never have imagined becoming so fascinated with the world of the grain. It ends up that what was new to me, was in reality very, very old. Whole grains and the breads that they make can be defined as a romance between the rain and the earth; it is also the story of la technique melded with the practical use of locally grown cereals. The tastes of these grains and flours are naturally sweet, at times grassy and nutty, and earthy.

In the process of baking bread I have touched upon the grains that have nourished me since childhood, the familiar wheat, rice, and corn. I evolved into eating and baking with other forms of these familiar grains that quickly became favorites: bulgur wheat, Arborio rice for risotto, and polenta. With exposure to ethnic cuisines, I found these grains once more as couscous, basmati rice, and hominy. Exotics included quinoa from South America, teff from Africa, Amaranth and Barley from the US. Old fashioned flours included the chestnut, potato (a favorite of mine for thickening), soy, and the ever delicious chickpea (garbanzo) flour. Try Lou’s Garbanzo Crepes, Barley Blueberry Muffins, Oven Baked 4 Grain English Muffins, and the ever popular Masa Biscuits. If you are a tortilla flatbread fan, the quinoa tortillas are a must do.

I envisioned a book with history, geography, botanical nomenclature, entomology of words, gardening tips, all forms of each grain used in baking, complementary flavors, kneading tips (whole grains are different than an all wheat dough), nutrition, a mail order granary, and an extensive encyclopedia of the grains themselves. I like thinking like a child: A is for amaranth, B for barley. Or buckwheat. C is for corn, etc. The glossary includes the structure of the cereal grain kernel, nutritional, milling, and botanical plant terminology used throughout the text. It is definitely handy when decoding grain some simple grain family characteristics. And of course a wide range of recipes. I did use wheat flour liberally since for a beginning whole grain flour baker, this would make the most satisfying baked goods. Since the publication in 1999, the gluten-free revolution has appeared and there is an entirely new way to look at whole grains and flours. The book was edited severely and lost something in translation, but I still use it as a solid reference on baking with whole grains. Daniel Clark’s stunning and delicious photography conveys the rustic nature of the baked goods that are whole grain at their essence.
Ti Couz Buckwheat Crêpes
Rice Flour Pizza Crust
 
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