Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day

Fast and Easy Recipes for World-Class Breads
By Peter Reinhart

Ten Speed Press

Copyright © 2009 Peter Reinhart
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781580089982


The big breakthrough for U.S. bakers during the past twenty years was a new understanding of the relationship between time, temperature, and ingredients. Long, slow fermentation was first understood as simply a technique that made better bread. Later in the evolution of bread baking, we began to understand the actual science behind the various techniques. In brief, this science comes down to biochemical and biological activities that release trapped flavors. The activities are brought about by enzymes in both the flour and the yeast, and by microorganisms (bacteria as well as yeast) that create acids, alcohol, and gases. That's actually all of the information we need in order to set out on a lifetime pursuit of applications and variations, though many books have gone much deeper in explaining dough science and are worth reading. In fact, artisan bread baking could arguably be reduced to the following axioms:

* Use the best ingredients, including unbleached rather than bleached flour.

* Use only as much yeast as necessary to get the job done. Slower fermentation is better than faster fermentation.

* Mix the dough only as long as needed to get the job done to prevent oxidizing the flour, which bleaches the flour and reduces aromas and flavor.

* Use higher rather than lower hydration levels. More water equals better oven spring and thus bigger holes and better flavor.

* When shaping loaves, handle the dough gently in order to preserve the gases developed during the earlier fermentation cycle.

* Bake in well-insulated ovens at the appropriate temperatures. For crusty hearth breads, hotter and faster is better than cooler, slower baking.

* For hearth breads, large, irregular holes in the crumb of the loaf are preferable to medium, even-size holes. Larger holes allow the heat to penetrate more quickly to the center of the loaf, reducing baking time and preserving more moistness to create a thinner, crackly crust. Larger holes also indicate a better, gentler shaping technique.

Almost all of the bread books of the past twenty years speak to these points, and understanding them sets any baker well on the way to better breads. However, we are about to step beyond the boundaries of artisan orthodoxy and add some unconventional steps.


The use of old dough or pre-fermented sponges was developed by traditional bakers as a way of slowing down fermentation and, essentially, buying the dough more time to release its flavor (a result of starch molecules releasing some of their sugar and saccharide chains, as well as the formation of acids due to fermentation by yeast and bacteria). Some of these pre-ferments are wet and batterlike, while others are dry and firm; some are made with commercial yeast, while others use naturally occurring wild yeast (sourdough starters); some have salt, and some don't. What they all have in common is the idea of adding older, slowly fermented dough to young, freshly made dough to instantly age it so that greater flavor can be developed in less time. This is an example of the manipulation of time by the manipulation of ingredients.

Another way of manipulating time is by using more or less yeast, or warmer or cooler fermentation temperatures. One of the main functions of yeast is to raise, or leaven, the dough through biological fermentation, releasing carbon dioxide that gets trapped in the dough, pushing it up like a balloon. Both the amount of yeast and the temperature at which the dough ferments have a huge impact on the time it takes to raise the loaf. Typically, a difference of 17°F (about 10°C) will effectively double (or halve, depending on which direction you go) the rate of fermentation. Thus, dough that doubles in size in 2 hours at 70°F (21°C) will take 1 hour to double at 87°F (31°C) and 4 hours at 53°F (12°C). This doesn't apply to dough that's cooler than 40°F (4°C), where yeast goes somewhat dormant, or hotter than 139°F (59°C), where yeast dies.

Again, armed with just this much information, all sorts of permutations and manipulations of time become possible. Bakers from earlier baking traditions have come up with numerous variations in order to create distinctive regional breads, and within a specific tradition there may be numerous ways to achieve similar results.

Another lesson has been that in using this knowledge to produce more bread in less time by, say, increasing the yeast or boosting the fermentation temperature, we may get fully risen loaves faster, but often at the expense of flavor because the ingredients, especially the grain, haven't been given sufficient time to release their sugars and achieve their full potential. So the baker's mission, as I tell my students on their first day in my baking classes, is to learn how to draw out the full potential flavor trapped in the grain. I explain that the way to accomplish this is by understanding the effects of time and temperature on the ingredients.

All of this is a prelude to explaining the choice of methods used to make the breads in this book, many of which may seem to violate some of the axioms above. For instance, if the dough has been given sufficient time to ferment at a very cool temperature, it may be possible to increase the amount of yeast to boost leavening power and shorten rising time without sacrificing fermentation flavor. And because certain ingredients may dominate the subtle flavors that arise during long fermentation, extended fermentation time might not improve the flavor of the bread, even if the dough is held at very cool temperatures. In these instances, there's no advantage to long, delayed fermentation, but there may be ways to delay the fermentation anyway, in order to make the baker's work easier and faster on the actual day of baking.

The wild card in all of this, and the aspect of the craft that couldn't be anticipated by bakers of earlier centuries, is the invention of refrigeration. Controlling temperature is a very powerful method of controlling time and fermentation, and it has a huge impact on the ability of the baker to evoke the full potential of flavor from the grain. The baking community has only recently begun to explore the ramifications and options of this factor in the triangle of time, temperature, and ingredients, but this exploration has already led to a number of new baking techniques using refrigerated dough. This new method of delayed fermentation creates wonderful products, even from home ovens of less-than-stellar quality.


I figured out the new methods for the doughs in this book by experimenting and testing old methods and conventional baking wisdom against new theories. For example, when I first read the instructions for the master hearth bread recipe in a recently published book, I immediately assumed, based on my understanding of dough science, that it contained way too much yeast to work as promised. How could it possibly last in the refrigerator for even one day without overfermenting while the yeast gobbled up all of the released sugar? How could it possibly create a tasty, moist, and creamy loaf (what some describe as the custard-like quality found in great breads)? Yet, when I made the recipe, it worked and didn't overferment. Sure, I saw areas where the recipe could be tweaked and improved upon, but this didn't diminish my astonishment at how greatly it exceeded my expectations. Although I have yet to find a scientific, chemical, or biological reason to explain why it works, the results forced me to reconsider all of the premises I once held sacrosanct. While certain scientific principles govern baking, one rule supersedes all others: the flavor rule; that is, flavor rules! In other words, if it works, don't knock it.

Some of the doughs for the recipes in this book are, by design, wet and sticky, and therefore tricky to work with. But this is one of the reasons the dough springs back to life so easily and well during the final proofing stage, creating fairly large, irregular holes in the crumb. You will also find options for whole grain substitutions in many of these formulas. As a general rule, you need to increase the liquid by about 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz / 14 g) for every 2 ounces (56.5 g) of whole grain flour you substitute in place of white flour. But even here, brands vary; you'll have to feel your way into it using the visual and tactile cues in the instructions as your guide. I've also included a selection of breads designed specifically as whole grain loaves, so in those instances you won't have to guess at adjustments.

I am indebted to the authors of other baking books using similar methods and have learned something from each. Still, there's always room for improvement. In these recipes, I've attempted to address and overcome some of the concerns I had after studying other techniques, especially to minimize overfermentation and unnecessary steps. I hope you'll find these recipes to be truly easy and consistently delicious.

Streamlining Baking: No Pre-ferments

Unlike the recipes in my other books, many of which required a poolish or other pre-ferment (usually made with cool water and fermented for many hours, chilled or not), many of the doughs in this book are made with warm water to encourage immediate yeast activity, and then refrigerated and fermented slowly. In some of these recipes, the dough is fermented a short while at room temperature and then goes into the refrigerator for cold fermentation overnight, or longer. In many of the recipes, the dough goes into the refrigerator immediately after the mixing stage; this way the dough doesn't develop too much alcohol or lose its ability to create a rich, golden brown crust. My most well-known bagel formula, published in The Bread Baker's Apprentice, used a poolish sponge as part of its method. The version in this book doesn't, making these some of the easiest bagels you'll ever make, yet the results are almost identical because of the overnight method.

In some instances, though, a sourdough starter (levain, or a wild yeast type of pre-ferment) is added to create a sourdough bread. Sometimes you'll have the option of using only natural, wild yeast levain or a combination of both levain and commercial yeast. Both are legitimate methods, each resulting in a different flavor profile. Instructions for making a wild yeast starter from scratch can be found on page 36.

Laminated dough, such as that used to make croissants and Danish pastries, is made using a cold, overnight method to improve flavor and oven performance. When using the method described in this book, there's no need for a pre-ferment, since the refrigerator does all of the work of manipulating time to achieve the full potential of flavor and texture.

Because rich breads, such as babka, brioche, and holiday breads, are loaded with fats and sugars that slow down fermentation, they require a much higher amount of yeast than lean hearth breads. Again, the balancing act between time, temperature, and ingredients is what determines the method. These rich doughs generally don't benefit from the addition of a pre-ferment, but I do offer the option of adding a sourdough starter to intensify the flavor and increase shelf life and moistness.

Some of the recipes include optional methods and leave some of the choices up to you. For example, there are many options offered in the bagel recipe: They can be shaped either on the day of mixing or on the day they're baked. There are two methods of shaping. Half of my recipe testers preferred one and half preferred the other. Try them both and see which works best for you. This was also the case regarding the poaching liquid: Some testers preferred using malt syrup in the liquid and some didn't. When it comes to bagels, one of those categories of bread where many strong opinions abound, I decided it was better to lay out all of the options and let you choose for yourself, especially since there was no clear consensus or definitive winner during recipe testing. All of the options worked, and each had fans.

Overnight Fermentation

In this book, I take advantage of a number of factors that aren't always available to commercial bakeries: refrigeration, small batches, and high hydration. For the most part, bakeries don't have enough room to hold large batches of dough overnight, so they use sponges or other pre-ferments to build flavor. But home bakers can, so most of the recipes in this book call for making a complete, single-mix dough, then using the refrigerator to retard the fermentation process. This gives enzymes and microorganisms ample time to work on the molecules in the dough and develop the flavor.

Once the dough is mixed, in most cases it's quickly retarded to slow down activity of the yeast. One of the differences between this method and those I've used in previous books is that the recipes often call for lukewarm water (about 95°F or 35°C) rather than water at room temperature. This allows the yeast a chance to wake up and begin fermenting the dough as it cools down, until the yeast eventually goes dormant when the temperature of the dough falls below 40°F (4°C). A lot of the flavor transformation in the dough takes place during the dormant stage, because the starch enzymes are still at work even while the yeast goes to sleep.

The batch sizes of the recipes in this book are large enough to make multiple loaves. This is ideal, as the unbaked dough can be held in the refrigerator for a number of days, so you only need to mix one batch to have freshly baked bread several times. Of course, if you prefer to work with smaller or larger batches, that's fine; just keep all of the ingredients in the same proportions.

A New Way to Work with Yeast

Another breakthrough method in this book is that of hydrating instant yeast, often using lukewarm water. Hydrating instant yeast in warm water is something I wouldn't have embraced previously, but I've discovered that waking up the yeast in lukewarm water allows it to ferment more effectively during the cooldown phase in the refrigerator. It also makes it possible to put the dough in the refrigerator as soon as it's mixed rather than having to wait for it to rise. The warmer dough and activated yeast have plenty of time to rise as the dough cools, so the dough is ready to use right from the refrigerator, without the wake-up time required in many of the other bread recipes I've developed.

Many brands of instant yeast are available to home bakers, under brand names such as Rapid Rise, Instant Rise, Perfect Rise, or Bread Machine Yeast. I've always liked instant yeast because it doesn't require hydrating in warm water (active dry yeast, on the other hand, must always be hydrated first). But for many of the recipes in this book, the yeast performs even better if hydrated in advance. Another benefit of this method is that it's the same whether you use instant or active dry yeast, though it's best to increase the amount by 25 percent if you use active dry yeast. (This is because 25 percent of the yeast cells are killed during the processing of active dry yeast, while instant yeast is at almost 100 percent potency.) Fresh yeast is wonderful if you can get it--and if it's really fresh, as it only has a shelf life of 2 to 3 weeks. If substituting fresh yeast for the instant yeast, use about 3 times as much by weight to equal the leavening power of instant yeast. Fresh yeast should also be hydrated in water.


Excerpted from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day by Peter Reinhart Copyright © 2009 by Peter Reinhart. Excerpted by permission.
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