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- Publié sur Amazon.com
The other day, I read a review on another web site which concluded that the Amazon.com reviewers who criticized the first edition were largely inexperienced home bakers incapable of appreciating recipes by a master baker. Thus, I trust prospective customers will realize the necessity for sufficient critique.
Commercial bakers are the primary audience of this book, although there has been an attempt to enlarge its scope to include home bakers. I purchased the first edition in 2010 through Amazon.com, and my review of the first edition is still extant. I'd been baking for about ten years at the time of my first purchase, and I wanted to take my ability to a new level. I recently purchased the second edition hoping that I would find it improved.
There are some huge omissions and oversights in this book. Let's begin with the worst one of them: flour protein level. Early in the book, Hamelman writes, "When working with any bread formula, it is important to know what kind of flour is used, and its protein level. When making substitutions or when trying out new flours, adjustments in hydration are very often necessary" (p. 34). That sounds good enough, except by the time the recipes begin in chapter 4 (about 90 pages into the book), he has not ever stated what to use. So, the baker wants to jump in and make some recipes--and they have to guess. I love the clarity with which Nancy Silverton writes in her section on white flour, "The white flour I use at the moment is blended from hard winter wheat and dark hard northern spring wheat, and has a protein content of 12.5 percent" (Breads from the La Brea Baker, p. 6). Rose Levy Beranbaum even provides the "Approximate Range of Protein in Nationally Available Flours" on p. 550f of "The Bread Bible" to make shopping easy for the home baker. "Amy's Bread" (Revised & Updated, 2010) does an outstanding job of prominently noting protein information in the Tips and Techniques section for most of the recipes, along with providing a "Flour Protein Comparison Chart." Amy Scherber's book is published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.--the same publisher as Hamelman's book--except that they had different editors.
Now, let's suppose the home baker wants to make the first recipe in the book called Baguettes with Poolish (p. 92). So, the home baker travels over to the local supermarket and stares at the shelf of flour choices. "Let's see. Hamelman works for King Arthur Flour. Here's a bag of King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour. The recipe calls for `bread flour.' That'll work. Problem solved." As it turns out, our home baker has made a poor choice because this flour is too high in protein level to make good baguettes with. It's not really "problem solved" but rather "problem created," especially if the home baker continues right on baking with this flour in the recipes that call for "bread flour." It was bad enough that the first edition of this book lacked protein specifics, but to repeat the same exact omission in the second edition is really inexcusable. There will continue to be all kinds of frustrated home bakers over this issue. It wasted a lot of time for me, and quite some time passed before I got around to working in the levain breads section later in the book (chapter 5, p. 146) where Hamelman does indeed specify a protein level for his recipes that call for "bread flour." This made me come to the conclusion that Hamelman probably wanted home bakers to use King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour when he specifies "bread flour" in the other sections of the book. In my judgment, recipes have turned out better since the time I switched. To confirm, there's an excellent discussion of this problem on The Fresh Loaf website called, "Hamelman's `Bread Flour' vs. `High-Gluten Flour'" by some bakers who have taken classes at King Arthur using recipes from this book and are acquainted with Hamelman. I just found this discussion while writing this review, but it began back on December 24, 2009.
You are probably wondering why I just didn't look in the index. Good question. I did. It turns out that the index does not include the particular page in the levain bread section which specifies the protein level. So, if you look under "Flour / protein level in" or any of the sub entries under "Protein in Flour" it does not include that page. Here's another similar example. In teaching Baker's Percentages, Hamelman provides an example and writes, "It is worth noting that by simply looking at the percentages we can ascertain important things about this bread. For one thing, we know at a glance that the salt and yeast are within appropriate ranges." (p. 443). Really? I don't remember that Hamelman ever mentioned what the yeast range is in a balanced hearth bread formula, and I have searched both editions for it on several occasions. (He talks about the yeast range in a pre-ferment, but not for the entire formula.) There's no entry in the index under yeast for "range."
In fact, this index is inadequate. And, if you decide to work with this book, I strongly suggest that any time you come across important information that you either create your own topical index from scratch (which I do myself) or you verify that the entry actually exists in the book's index--because it can be very frustrating to retrieve information you remember reading if it has not been indexed, and sometimes, helpful information is hidden in recipes outside of the main presentation of the book.
There was an errata sheet for the first edition, and we are to understand that they have gone over the recipes with a fine-tooth comb. I've had the second edition for less than a week, and I can already find one mistake from the first edition that they missed. Please turn to Five-Grain Bread on p. 281. You will note that the overall formula calls for .26 oz of instant dry yeast. There's no yeast used in the soaker, but the final dough calls for .8 oz. How do they account for this discrepancy? If the home baker does not notice this and uses the wrong number, then there's a problem. Before learning of the existence of the first edition's errata sheet, I made some of the inaccurate recipes. It's time wasted that I'll never get back.
This book emphasizes proper weighing of ingredients. Hamelman writes, "Cups and tablespoons are inherently inaccurate, and serious home bakers should buy a good scale" (p. 82). His recipes use baker's percentages where "each ingredient in a formula is expressed as a percentage of the flour weight, and the flour weight is always expressed as 100 percent" (p. 442). Unfortunately, Hamelman's handling of numbers while scaling the commercial formulas into smaller portions for home bakers has not been done carefully enough. My degree is in electrical engineering. As I write, I sit here reminiscing about the days of yore at good ole' Michigan State University working on my Bachelor of Science degree doing triple integrals, Fourier series analysis, and other horrible math problems while others were out at the bar drinking. For you--and only for you--I will try to rally myself to do some baker's math. Please turn to the first recipe in the book, Baguettes with Poolish on p. 92, and let's verify the yeast weight in the overall formula remembering that the yeast % is actually fresh yeast for the convenience of the professional bakers and must be converted to instant dry for the home bakers that are routinely treated as second-class citizens throughout this book (see p. 48 if you don't already have this conversion committed to memory): 2lb flour weight x (16oz/lb) x (0.011 fresh yeast weight/flour weight) x (0.33 instant dry yeast weight/fresh yeast weight) = 0.1162 oz which they have rounded up to 0.13??? That's odd. I never learned rounding like that. Now, take a look at some other recipes all based on the same 2 pounds of flour and all specifying the very same 0.13 oz of instant dry yeast. Remember that these baker's percentages are in fresh yeast for commercial bakers: we have 1.25% for Baguettes with pate Fermentee (p. 94), 1.2% for Ciabatta with Stiff Biga (p. 96) and 1.3% for Whole-Wheat Bread with a Multi-Grain Soaker. It's like someone decided to take the easy way out and made a chart of range conversions instead of doing the math for each formula. So, if the fresh yeast percentage is between 1.1% and 1.3% then the home bakers are to use 0.13 oz of instant dry yeast. If you study recipes in the breads with yeasted pre-ferments section you will also notice they did the same thing for 2 lb. formulas calling for between 1.5% - 1.7% fresh yeast which all use the same 0.17 oz of instant dry yeast. They were just too lazy to do the actual math for home bakers in each recipe--after advising us that we should buy a good scale and understand baker's percentages!
Crackers and Flat Breads (p.364) is a new recipe which illustrates the problem of rounding off ounces to one decimal place in a recipe containing a small ingredient such as a spice. The recipe for home bakers is based on 5.2 oz. of flour and calling for 1% toasted cumin. So, here's the math: 5.2 oz. x 0.01 = 0.052 oz.--which has been rounded off to 0.1 oz. In other words, the careless rounding of numbers has resulted in almost doubling the amount of toasted cumin for the home bakers.
For some time, my impression has been that some of the recipes could use more salt. Since I'm not going to be able to bake a loaf for you over the internet, the only way I can describe what I've learned from looking into this issue is to do more baker's math for you. A part of this problem arises from the fact that they round off the salt in home recipes to one decimal place--an inconsistent practice considering that they use two decimal places for yeast. Hamelman writes, "Generally, the correct amount of salt in bread dough is 1.8 to 2 percent of salt based on flour weight (that is, 1.8 to 2 pounds of salt per 100 pounds of flour)" (p. 44). For home bakers, Hamelman often scales recipes to 2 pounds of flour. When you do the math, this means that 1.8% salt would be 0.576 oz while 2.0% is 0.64 oz.--both of which round off to 0.6 oz. There are numerous examples throughout the book of recipes where this rounding off has taken place. For home bakers, the rounding off of the salt means that you will not be able to experience the subtleties of his salting as you are effectively baking all of these recipes at 0.6 oz salt weight / [2 lb flour weight x (16 oz / lb)] = 1.88%. Clearly, this was not his intent, but they did not think this issue through enough before deciding to round off the salt to one decimal place. The remedy is for you to redo the math on any recipe that you make if you want to experience the subtleties of Hamelman's recipes. "The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking" by The French Culinary Institute has adapted several of Hamelman's recipes for use in their book and they also offer grams, which is a superior choice over rounding ounces to only one decimal place.
Question: Why does this review have to be so long?
Answer: It is as long as it has to be to cover what I feel needs to be said. I do not get paid by trying to make an effort to help you.
In this book, Hamelman offers seven different formulas for French Baguettes. I can't think of another author who even comes close to that amount! But, all seven of these recipes have salt in the range of 1.8 to 2% so there's not as much variety as there could have been. It's helpful to mention some other prominent authors whose use of salt is in a very different range. Julia Child's famous recipe for Plain French Bread (Pain Francais) which she worked out with the assistance of Professor Raymond Calvel [who also wrote the Foreword for Hamelman's book] is approximately 2.9% (see "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child and Simone Beck, volume two, p. 57). Elizabeth David's general preference for salt in bread is upwards of 3.13% (see "English Bread and Yeast cookery," p. 120), and James Beard's taste is in the same range (see "Beard on Bread," pp. 22 and 28). In this book, I'd have been better served to have had at least a few of the baguette recipes break out of Hamelman's preferred narrow range.
Another type of common omission is worth mentioning because of potential safety. It is not unusual for Hamelman to mention other dough shaping possibilities in a recipe. For instance, on Baguettes with Pate Fermentee (p. 94), Hamelman writes, "Round loaves (boules), oval loaves (batards), pan loaves, and rolls can be made with this dough" but there are no bake temperatures nor times provided for these options. The bake temperature for baguettes is 460F. For pan loaves, it may not be as simple as using the time and temperature for the baguettes because pans may not be rated high enough to withstand the heat. I have a number of USA Pans that I purchased from King Arthur, and they are only rated to 450F. So, the home baker would have to use trial and error to find a safe solution. There is a Baking at Home section, but it is only marginally improved in the second edition. It talks about baking on stones, for instance. Many authors focusing on home bakers will also include information on La Cloche bakers. I've had some success particularly with the Italian style La Cloche for some of Hamelman's recipes. This section is only two pages long and could have been more robust, particularly given the varying performance of home ovens. Bake times and temperatures are for commercial ovens, and it is well for you to have reasonable expectations regarding how well you expect this information to work with a home oven before you add this item to your shopping cart. This has required more of my time than any other challenge presented by this book despite the fact that I believe my oven to be correctly calibrated!
The dividing and shaping information is not well thought out for home bakers. Bagels (p. 328) is an example of a recipe based on 3lb 3.5 oz of dough which is expected to yield 13 bagels, and the instructions call for dividing into 4 oz pieces. This is physically impossible even if you could scale exactly to 4 oz because 13 x 4 oz requires a minimum of 3 lb 4 oz to begin with. In reality, you will want to have some extra dough to work with to avoid having to reuse tiny cutting scraps. There is an excellent discussion in Daniel T. DiMuzio's "Bread Baking: An Artisan's Perspective" (p. 36) suggesting a 5% cutting loss as a starting place until you know your actual loss. Hamelman does, at least, teach how to scale a recipe properly.
There is a helpful discussion buried in the production notes of the sourdough rye breads (pp. 206-7) pertaining to the need to adjust bake times when the loaf size is changed. This discussion should have been placed in a position of greater visibility applying to the entire book, as I cannot find this discussion elsewhere. The home baker will always want to be on the lookout for recipes where the home loaves have been scaled to a different size than the commercial ones, as this happens frequently. Two of the most dramatic examples are: (1.) Miche, Pointe-a-calliere (p. 164) which has been scaled to 5 lbs. for commercial bakers but only 3 lb., 10.8 oz. for home bakers; and (2.) Mixed-Flour Miche (p. 166) which has been scaled to 5 lb. for commercial bakers but only 3 lb. 11.2 oz. for home bakers.
After having read, "A Conversation with Michael Ganzle" in the Baker's Recource: Sourdough Microbiology section of The Bread Builders by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott, I wished that Hamelman would have gone more in depth into his philosophy about maintaining a sourdough culture. For instance, how did Hamelman decide what percentage to inoculate his cultures with? Nancy Silverton writes, "I've found that bread turns out a lot better when the starter has been fed three times each day" (p. 35). Hamelman recommends twice per day. I'd like to know why he thinks the way that he does. I prefer Silverton's approach, but if you decide to use Hamelman's Liquid Levain I strongly recommend that you fix the math in the home baker's column.
Mixing times are for commercial-type spiral mixers, but some general guidelines are provided to assist home bakers using Kitchen Aide type stand mixers to adapt this information. Generally speaking, these guidelines have worked pretty well for me with only a few exceptions. In these cases, I needed to study similar recipes from a variety of sources until I was able to figure out what went wrong in the mixing process. My experience has been that the KitchenAid Flex Edge Beater has been of great value for mixing some of the rye breads. This beater has the flex edge on one side only as opposed to some of the third party models with flex edges on both sides which have not worked nearly as well for me and I do not recommend.
The repertoire of breads is primarily European artisan. Despite working for King Arthur, a long-standing American company in Vermont, Hamelman has very little interest in North American tradition nor regional favorites from the northeast such as Portugese Sweet Bread, Boston Brown Bread, or Anadama Bread. The repertoire of whole-rye and medium rye breads is especially distinguished, appealing, and tasty. Regarding baking with white rye flour, Hamelman writes on p. 42, "White rye flour has little in the way of flavor or color, and is generally a poor choice in bread making." When reading that I immediately thought, "Ooo, he must not like those white rye recipes of the Hungarian tradition by George Greenstein in 'Secrets of a Jewish Baker' from rival Ten Speed Press!" Therefore, I would qualify Hamelman's repertoire as being "select European artisan." A broader outlook would help the book.
Initially, I had started out my review with this text which would have been sure to have gotten a lot more helpful votes. It went like this: "Calvel is the man! Hamelman is his disciple! Home bakers: give up your Peter Reinhart books! I love this book! Buy it!!!" But after long deliberation, I've opted for this instead. This book will take its place in my bread library primarily as a reference book but I will bake cautiously out of it. There are some recipes found herein that both put a smile on my wife's face and that I really value having in my baking repertoire--but I have had to persist through a lot of unnecessary challenges to achieve satisfactory results. (I have uploaded some customer images of these recipes for viewing.) I doubt I would ever try baking a recipe for the first time from it when company is coming over. I do not recommend this book to new bakers, and I only recommend it to advanced home bakers with caution and reservations. I think that home bakers are a lot better off with Peter Reinhart's books, and he knows to provide salt and yeast in ounces with two decimal places. Reinhart has a huge army of home bakers who assist in testing before a book is released, and Reinhart is more in tune with the types of problems faced by home bakers including the necessity for make-ahead recipe techniques. The progression of Reinhart's books is a fascinating journey worth taking, including his understanding of enzyme action in bread making. I gave the first edition of this book the benefit of the doubt. This time, I'm not going to do so--as I've paid for it twice now: three stars only.