Friday Review: Bread Science: The Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread by Emily Buehler

Bread ScienceBread Science by Emily Buehler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like baking. I like baking far better than I like cooking meals. One of the things I bake with relative frequency is bread. I make decent bread, but there are some things I still struggle with. Working with a more sticky, slack dough is one of those. I’ve read countless articles and online postings about baking bread, but there has still been something missing.

Cue my youngest daughter. My birthday was this month, and she gave me this book as a gift. I started reading it and immediately thought: This is going to be really help. And it has. I tried the basic recipe from the book this week, and while I did over bake the loaves a bit (I’m not used to preheating the oven so high and forgot to turn it down when I put the loaves in), the taste and texture are really good. And I got nice oven spring, something I’d not with some breads before.

The book is a bit textbook-like, and that may put some people off. I will admit that the first couple chapters on the chemistry part did make my head spin a bit. I have never been the science-y, math type. But there was a lot of interesting information on the why and how of what happens with the simple ingredients that bread is made up of. And who knew there was so much research done on bread? I sure didn’t!

The book startst with the basics: ingredients, measuring, and an overview of the process. Then it delves into the science with chemical reactions described and explained, and how different ingredients and reactions affect the dough either positively or negatively. There are chapters on preferments and starters, mixing, fermentation, shaping (really good tips here), proofing and baking, as well as a few recipes and storage information. It has a bibliography that lists the sources for the research cited, an appendix of units and conversions, and a glossary of terms.

This is not a cookbook, as such. It is more of a class in bread making. Some of it is a bit hard to get through, especially if chemistry isn’t your strong point, but I picked up some valuable information anyway. If you want to improve your bread making, and learn a bit more in depth about the whole process, this book is quite an interesting read.

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