Straight Baguette {The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking Review & Giveaway}

We haven’t had a good old fashioned book review on the site since summer and when Abrams publishing asked me if I would like to check out a book on bread baking I jumped at it.

Bread baking is one of those skills I revere as essential to any well balanced chef. Bread is one of our most basic of foods for thousands of years and it seems to be it should be something we all strive to become good at.

It’s also one of the most intimidating of things to me. For some reason, the idea of yeast, rising, kneading, and baking a dough to perfection seems like a science that requires Alton Brown and a team of lab rats holding your hand for. But its not. As I said early, man kind has been making bread forever, and I’m pretty sure Alton isn’t an immortal Iron Chef vampire helping humans learn to cook for eons. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised….

Early this year I decided I was going to kick my fear of yeast, but then my confidence was crushed when the heavy thick technical book, The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking showed up at my door step.

With a solid 91 pages of text before the first actual bread recipe appears in the book I felt at a loss. The book has sections on everything one would ever need to know regarding the art of bread making from burn safety to the parts of an egg. I was overwhelmed.

I sat down with this behemoth a few days later and chose what recipe I would test.  I am not a classically trained chef, I am a cable tv trained fat kid. I have no scale, heck the numbers are rubbing off of my measuring cup. My flat work surface is not even bolted to the wall. But I could do this. Or I would have a hilarious flop of an attempt to tell you about. 😉

Technical Level: This book feels like my college text books. It is heavy and packed with extensive knowledge with many reference pages and step by step instructional guides on bread making. This is not a book for novice bakers, but a book for the brave chef who is ready to immerse themselves in the true art of bread making.

Graphic Design:  This book does not pop graphically – simply because it is not supposed to. You are not going to be thumbing through the cooking/baking section at your local big box book store and think ‘oh, let me try that one’. The people who buy this book will have gone there seeking it out. It doesn’t need fancy fonts and snappy lines. It is simple, with easily read fonts and pictures to show what the finished piece should look like.

Recipe Quality:  The quality of recipes in The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking are cultural timeless essentials. From perfect kaiser rolls, classic ciabatta, bagels and panettone this book covers a wide variety of bead making. The sections are even broken down by region such as French, Italian, German and Middle European bread. For those on a special diet, or just wanting to educate themselves even further, there is a section devoted to gluten-free formulas. 

Personality: Just like with the graphic design, this book is not one you come to for personality. It is one you look up to and respect like those college professors that inspired you to work harder or put a little more time in on a research paper. This book has no snappy charisma, no breaks for humor, it is simple strict and technical, which is perfectly suitable and expected.

Why I’d Buy: In all honesty, I can’t say that I would have purchased this book. I don’t consider myself an expert bread maker and would have been intimidated by the sheer volume of knowledge in this book, its use of terms I am unfamiliar with and its level of technical expertise. That being said, I am so happy that I was able to preview it because I feel even more confident that I was able to make baguettes from this book – and you know what? It really wasn’t all that scary! If you are up for a personal challenge, or know an amazing bread baking – I say go for it with this book.

Now, who wants to test out this book for themselves?

Leave a comment here telling me what bread recipe you would like to conquer yourself.

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Entries accepted through November 13th at Midnight EST. Winner will be announced on 11/16/11.

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  1. Lisa says

    I’ve made brioche and croissants before, but my brother still thinks he can make a better baguette than me, so I’d definitely have to best him in that! I’m also following you on Facebook-thanks for the fun giveaway and posts!

  2. says

    Oh, I’d love to find a fabulous honey oatmeal bread! Great giveaway, Kita! Looks like you have nothing to fear after making these gorgeous baguettes!

  3. says

    Wow you made some beautiful baguettes! See we should be neighbors. Yesterday I was lamenting because I didn’t make the start for baguettes. Baking bread is kind of an addiction for me. My family is getting quite spoiled too!

    I liked you on Facebook, followed you on Twitter, you’ve been on my rss since the day I found your brioche. :) I need to sign up for emails so I don’t miss out on posts letting days go by without staying in the loop!

  4. says

    Great giveaway! I’ve made a lot of bread, but I would really love to try making a good French bread with big holes – somehow that has never turned out right for me and I’d love to get it done right! :)

  5. says

    For what it’s worth I think your baguettes look exactly like they are supposed too and not all uniformed like that tasteless white fluff from some grocery stores. They look rustic, rough and ready to eat with a good chunk of brie IMO :) I left school and worked in a bakery for many years so I know the basics but right now it’s chocolate that’s driving me insane and intimidating me, another science all on it’s own! I say if it flops throw out a few cuss words and just try again,
    Great post and awesome pics again…

  6. says

    Oooh, those look crusty and fantastic! I bet I could polish off an entire baguette in 1 sitting. Mmm!

    I loooove making bread. I think my next experiment will be croissants. Does that count as bread? Or is it a pastry?

  7. says

    This was a great review! I have to say – I’d love to make something really crusty and delicious for paninis. Perhaps a ciabatta?

    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

  8. says

    Well done! I think your baguettes turned out ace! I’m terrified of yeast and your rather scary description of the book makes me think it would be better in the hands of someone else. Awesome review by the way :)

  9. says

    This is great writing, fyi. and those pictures are amazing! I follow you on twitter and facebook (double score!). I haven’t ventured for long periods of time in to bread making although I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid of anything. ahem… (gosh, I hope she doesn’t know I’m lying). 😉

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