New book on bread rises to the occasion
April 27, 1999
Web posted at: 4:36 p.m. EDT (2036 GMT)
(CNN) -- For Beth Hensperger, bread baking is a calling. No wonder her latest book is titled "The Bread Bible."
With no formal training, Hensperger learned the basic skills of bread baking by sheer tenacity.
"It was the repetitive baking daily for seven years in a small restaurant," she says, "that taught me my trade; that is how I built my confidence as a baker. I went from being unable to control a large mass of dough on the worktable and wondering what to do with a dough that did not rise in time to be baked for lunch -- to being very confident with a repertoire of two dozen loaves of my own invention. 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."
But she says it was when she wasn't working that she locked in her approach as a "bread artist."
"I took out my copies of the first edition of the "Tassajara Bread Book" and "A World of Bread" by Dolores Casella, published in 1966, and started baking loaves and rolls on Page One right through to the end," she says.
"I became secure with the six basic steps in constructing every yeast dough: the mixing, kneading, rising, scaling (dividing the portions of dough), shaping, the second rising and baking. Without realizing it, I became aware of the variables. I paid attention to the weather, the temperature of the flour, even the conditions in my kitchen. It was through this repetition that I began to understand the craft of bread baking."
That understanding is communicated in "The Bread Bible: Beth Hensperger's 300 Favorite Recipes" through directions, tips, hints and history. Scattered through the book's 496 pages are "Baker's Wisdom" entries that explain ingredients and their variables.
For example, this entry after an Oatmeal-Potato Bread recipe:
"Rolled oats are the most familiar cereal on the market and a favorite ingredient in both yeast and quick breads. Whole groats are hulled, steamed, and flattened into old-fashioned flakes. When rerolled they become quick-cooking oats. Quick and old-fashioned oats can be used interchangeably in breadmaking, with the old-fashioned variety retaining its shape more distinctly. Rolled oats can be ground in a food processor into an earthy oat flour or a coarse meal suitable for bread making. The mild, nutty flavor and moist, nubby texture of oats are favorites in breads."
For "The Bread Bible," Hensperger culled hundreds of her time-tested recipes, both classic and intriguingly original, to come up with 300 favorites. The book covers everything from simple basic white breads to dense and tasty whole-grain breads, plus breads made with herbs, cheeses and nuts. Other recipes cover dinner rolls, biscuits, muffins, coffeecakes, waffles, popovers, pancakes, crepes, pizza, calzone, focaccia, tortillas, fry breads and pita.
"The Bread Bible" is published by Chronicle Books and illustrated by Harry Bates.