Published by Ten Speed Press
Publication date: September 18th 2012
Genres: Cookbook, Non-fiction
Patience is indeed a virtue when it comes to making good bread.
There are few aromas more comforting and enticing then that of freshly baking bread and in Portland, few places better to find that aroma than Ken’s Artisan Bakery. I’m not just saying this because I’ve heard that Ken’s is great but because I used to go there on Sundays for a fresh croissant that was the epitome of all a croissant should be and by that I mean, impossible to eat with any delicacy. A crisp, flaky crust that explodes on impact and the most succulent tender buttery insides—perfection. I’ll go even further in blowing my objective cred by saying they make the best egg salad sandwich I’ve ever had (and now my mother will disown me).
Imagine my delight to find that Ken Forkish, the genius behind all that is Ken’s Artisan Bakery has written a book succinctly called Flour Water Salt Yeast. Even before you open this book there is a sense that it will be good. It has heft, much like any great bread, a comforting weight. Inside it is neatly organized into an introduction and four parts: The Principles of Artisan Bread, Basic Bread Recipes, Levain Bread Recipes, and Pizza Recipes. Within each part are several chapters including detailed information on equipment and ingredient needs as well as one that carefully outlines and explains the methods used in the book. Equally interesting is the introduction where Forkish explains his journey from corporate man to bread-maker and gives readers an inside look at how a bakery operates. The book is geared for all levels of bakers, from those who have never made bread in their lives to those with experience. And while he may be a professional baker, this book is written for home use and every recipe was tested in his kitchen.
Forkish is approaching bread from the aspect of flavor and while the recipes may vary only slightly, it is the fermentation process that alters and can give depth to the bread. This depends on time and the culture used. A shorter time equals less flavor, longer equals more complexity. A substantial portion of the book is about the levain, or culture, that is created from scratch as opposed to using store bought yeast. This is an integral part of Forkish’s process and ties back to his fundamental belief that bread is an artisanal product and must be produced with care and quality of ingredients. If it all sounds complicated and a bit too complex, relax. Forkish is a patient teacher and thoroughly explains each concept and step.
The book is not only a carefully crafted bread baking guide but also a visually appealing work. Forkish has an amiable, down-to-earth style which goes a long way to putting novices at ease. What should be noted, however, is this is not a fast and easy approach to bread making. There are several instant yeast recipes, but the bulk of the book is devoted to the levain method in order to produce the kind of bread you find in the best boulangeries. As per Forkish, time is an ingredient in making artisan bread. This is a book for those who want to make high-quality bread and believe that four ingredients, nurtured and used in different ways, can yield a delicious variety of results. Or, as I felt after reading it, Flour Water Salt Yeast is for those who truly love and appreciate bread.