However, beyond the light wheat bread, I had never tried any of the other recipes in The Bread Baker's Apprentice (well, save the crackers, which popped up as a Daring Bakers challenge last September). And frankly, considering how many cookbooks and clipped recipes I've collected that I haven't even started to explore, who knows if I would have gotten around to really using Reinhart's book. I certainly would not have immersed myself in the narrative, learning about the formulas and the methods and, as Reinhart likes to say, the spirit of bread baking. But thanks to Pinch My Salt's Nicole -- who wondered aloud via Twitter a few weeks ago if she should undertake baking her way through The Bread Baker's Apprentice and, by the way, any of you out there want to join me? -- here I am, at the start of a journey of a thousand miles, which starts with a single step, a whole lot of flour, some water, salt and yeast.
Yes, I will be baking my way through The Bread Baker's Apprentice. All 43 recipes. But I won't be alone. More than 200 fellow bakers are undertaking the task as well. Our only goal is to learn. Wait. Let me revise that. Our only goals are to learn, and to eat phenomenal bread. With Mr. Reinhart as our guide, I don't see how we can go wrong.
The first recipe in the book is anadama bread -- a lovely, simultaneously soft and crunchy, golden bread that is popular in New England. I had never heard of anadama bread before, but now that I know it, I'm certain it will appear in my kitchen again. The bread starts with a soaker of cornmeal and water that sits overnight before being mixed with bread flour, molasses, yeast, salt, water and shortening to form a rough dough that's the color of brown sugar.
The finished result is subtly but deeply sweet, soft yet toothsome thanks to the flecks of coarse-ground cornmeal scattered throughout the crumb. I enjoyed it quite a bit this morning with a purple smear of Greaves blackberry jam.
The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge asks that participants do not include the recipes in their blog posts, which makes me just a little sad because I'd like to share it with you all right away. That said, Peter Reinhart's book is marvelously written, wonderfully instructive and well worth the price of purchase. So go out and get yourself a copy, and turn to the anadama bread on page 108, and get to baking, and get to eating. You won't be sorry.
Next up: Greek celebration bread.