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52 Loaves (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

William Alexander

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Descriptions du produit

Présentation de l'éditeur

William Alexander is determined to bake the perfect loaf of bread. He tasted it long ago, in a restaurant, and has been trying to reproduce it ever since. Without success. Now, on the theory that practice makes perfect, he sets out to bake peasant bread every week until he gets it right. He bakes his loaf from scratch. And because Alexander is nothing if not thorough, he really means from scratch: growing, harvesting, winnowing, threshing, and milling his own wheat.
An original take on the six-thousand-year-old staple of life, 52 Loaves explores the nature of obsession, the meditative quality of ritual, the futility of trying to re-create something perfect, our deep connection to the earth, and the mysterious instinct that makes all of us respond to the aroma of baking bread.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 5527 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 353 pages
  • Editeur : Algonquin Books (25 octobre 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B005W9SMMW
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°274.287 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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En savoir plus sur l'auteur

William Alexander is the author of is "Flirting With French," about his often riotous attempt to fulfill a life-dream of learning French. His previous books include the best-selling memoir, "The $64 Tomato," and "52 Loaves: A Half-Baked Adventure," his funny but moving account of a year spent striving to bake the perfect loaf of bread, including a visit to a 1300-hundred-year-old monastery in Normandy, where, weirdly enough, he helps French monks restore their lost art of baking French bread.

The New York Times Style Magazine says about Alexander, "His timing and his delivery are flawless." He has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC, and was a 2006 Quill Book Awards finalist. Alexander has been a frequent contributor the New York Times op-ed pages, where he has opined on such issues as the Christmas tree threatening his living room, Martha Stewart, and the difficulties of being organic.

When not gardening, baking, or writing, Bill keeps his day job as director of technology at a psychiatric research institution, where, after 28 years, he persists in the belief that he is a researcher, not a researchee.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.5 étoiles sur 5  68 commentaires
41 internautes sur 43 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Just Flour, Water, Yeast & Salt 3 mai 2010
Par IMNSHO - Publié sur
If you enjoyed watching the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", then you are going to relish reading "52 Loaves". Just as the audience did not have to be Greek to laugh at the hilarious movie scenes and to empathize with the protagonist's experiences, readers do not have to bake bread, to be fully sated with this wonderful book.

For me, the most satisfying book is one that balances character, plot, setting, and theme. In "52 Loaves", all four strands are woven in a tapestry of well-written, thoughtful words.

The main "character" is the author, William Alexander. If you can recall a time in your life when either a meal or food tantalized you with its sublime taste, smell and texture, you can understand the author's dogged attempts to recreate a memorable experience with a loaf of bread. Given bread's many dynamic variables (flour, yeast, time and temperature), replicating a loaf of bread without a recipe, is intricately complicated. As the story enfolds, we laugh heartily as the author encounters one mishap after another in search for this elusive recipe, while admiring his doggedness. The single-focused character who we meet at the beginning of the book becomes introspective and philosophical at the end.

The plot holds the reader's interest as it revolves around the author's activities, his tribulations paired with triumphs, his obstacles followed by revelations. Along with the author, we learn from and enjoy meeting, among others, the miller, the bakers, the hippie, the scientist, the storeowner, and the monk. While we know intuitively that the author will eventually bake a "perfect" loaf, we read on to share in this victory. Rich in setting, the book travels from one location to the next - a myriad of fascinating places that culminate in a week's stay at a French monastery. The descriptions are precise in detail, informative in context, and lyrical in tone - a pleasing juxtaposition. Finally, like the author who learned that the perfect bread is the penultimate one, at the conclusion of the book, the reader will think about its many meanings long after the last page is read.

"52 Loaves" is quintessential story-telling. Whether you have never baked a loaf of bread, want to bake a loaf of bread, or have experienced the joys of baking your own or eating the "perfect" loaf, this is the book to read.
23 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 no loaves 22 novembre 2010
Par James - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
The author seemed to be on a quest to make an artisan bread with irregular holes and great taste. After a year, you'd think that he could learn how to do this and relate the results to the reader. No dice. He correctly explains that great bread flavor comes from a long steady rise. But he never cracks the riddle of the holes. As a result the book devolves into an entertaining story about "his" quest to understand how to make better bread and how he fails to reach enlightenment.

At the end of the book, he presents several recipes. As a bread chef, I classify bread recipes I read into three categories. The first are those copied from other cookbooks with little understanding. The second are ones with a unique nuance of some sort that could advance the general knowledge of breadmaking. The third are crap that either cannot be used, are imcomplete or won't work at all. His recipes are mostly classified as the latter. He recommends type 65 flour from France in one, for instance, that is not availble in this country, at least not from common sources. In some of the others, the recipe is incomplete-- for instance because they do not mention that the correct temperature to raise dough is 78 degrees(not 72!), and yes it makes a huge difference. Also he fails to mention in all cases that when the temperature of the inside of the loaf is at a certain temperature, the loaf is done. For a baguette, for instance it is 212 and for a batard it would be 190-195. How about the thickness and crispness of the crust? And I'm not even getting warmed up yet.

As you can see from the above, bread making is fairly technical. A full discussion of all of the factors mentioned above is clearly beyond the scope of a simple review. I mention them only to illustrate why I believe why this book could be correctly described as a verbal cartoon about making bread and not a document from which you can gain deep insights, just what you might expect from a writer who's trying to talk about bread baking rather than a bread baker who's trying to become a writer.

I also take issue with his prejudice against bread additives. Ascorbic acid, for instance, is otherwise known as vitamin C. It has long been used to harmlessly add to the extensibility of the yeast. Malts are another common class of additives that act to feed the yeast in beneficial ways, namely to extend the producing time of the yeast. They are similar to molasses. His ignorance of even this kind of mut chemistry should not influence you to think that all bread additives are bad.
23 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Needing bread 11 juin 2010
Par wogan - Publié sur
In some ways, for those of us that make bread, the behavior of William Alexander is not crazy, it's normal, sensible behavior. When he says he wants to make bread from scratch, he really means it, growing his own wheat, building an earth oven, traveling to discover how to make that perfect loaf, to Morocco and what seems another final goal in bringing the baking of bread back to the monks of l'Abbaye Saint-Wandrille de Fontenelle.

It is surprising that he goes off on this intense venture and then seems to be surprised by techniques that are in relatively simple bread books, such as steaming/misting in baking and using high temperature; which in his quest he destroys his stove. Then there is the amazement that he discovers; bread might turn out more `authentic' by hand kneading instead of using his kitchen mixer; especially since many chapters begin with the burgeoning weight of his bread books. He starts at 2 pounds and ends at 64. As a dedicated lover of baking bread, I guess I don't understand the irritation of hand kneading - it builds muscles, you can take out your aggressions or just pleasantly zone out - just don't know how you would expect to make the perfect peasant bread with a kitchen mixer.

We learn much about his life, including the priority of bread over his love life. He muses about Da Vince's Last Supper - why are there dinner rolls when it's Passover and there should be unleavened bread, no Matzos?. He elaborates on the disease of pellagra, a disease that suddenly sprang up in the south and was found to be caused by a dietary deficiency that by 1929 and 1930 had claimed 200,000 victims. It resulted in enriched bread , the addition of niacin.
This is not a cookbook, there are 5 recipes at the end and a 4 page list of books for a baker's bookshelf. There is no index. It would be a book for those interested in cooking, especially the baking of bread, and yes for students of obsessive behavior too.
23 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Serious Home Baker Will Want This 29 mai 2010
Par Z Ricarditich - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Alexander is a fine writer who examines the many processes involved in bread-making and gives wise advise as to each. He has read the books, noted the deficiencies and contradictions in how we are taught to create bread at home, and provided just enough information to enable the already-serious baker to take his or her skills up a notch.

While this is certainly not a book for those new to bread-making (who should read Reinhart, Bertinet, Corriher and Hamelman to gather an appreciation of the difficulty and many approaches), it is a book for those of us who have struggled for years to make a tasty and enjoyable-to-eat loaf and yet have failed.

I can't say there is a magic bullet contained somewhere in the pages, nor even that the recipes work (that is yet to be decided, though early experimentation with the 500-550 degree heat recommendation produced a loaf so leathery that it could not be cut), but I feel he has helped me to systematize and summarize a lot of thoughts I had on the baking process and ingredients - which could also mean he has confirmed my prejudices. In short, and from my own perspective, I found someone who understands the profundities of home bread-baking and the roadblocks that home bakers encounter.

His writing style takes you smoothly and with wit through his learning experience, and his reflections on the many people he encountered on the way are alone worth the cost of the book. I savored, in particular, the last 50 pages or so, knowing I was coming to the end of an adventure that I did not want to end.

I have just two reservations:
1. I now know more about his marital sex life than I wanted or needed to know, and am at a complete loss as to why that was included in the book, especially in view of the fact that he is the father of almost-adult children and his wife is a physician. It was a surprising and serious error of judgment.

2. Throughout the book he touts the boule (ball) shape of his main enterprise, the peasant bread loaf; yet four pages before the book ends he informs the reader that his preference has changed to the batard (hot-dog) shape. The reasons for the switch are understandable and appreciated, but without explanation the recipe for the peasant loaf following the end of the text retains the boule configuration, with all its drawbacks.
12 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Great read for those in pursuit of baking the perfect bread 22 mai 2010
Par Robin McDermott - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
For anyone who has picked up a book on how to bake bread and only to be disappointed with the results after their first attempt, you need to read this book. Like William Alexander, I have been in pursuit of baking the perfect naturally leavened bread in my home oven for the past 3 years. Now that I am pretty comfortable with the bread that I produce, I have to laugh when people taste it and then ask for the recipe. My reply used to be, "It just isn't as simple as giving you a recipe." Now I will be able to tell them to read 52 Loaves and then I will teach them how to make bread.

It is amazing how a seemingly small number of variables (four, water, levain and salt) can produce such different results. Like Bill, I have read lots of books about baking bread and have been mentored by a couple of friends who bake bread for a living. What I learned from 52 Loaves has helped make sense of all of the dry and tedious technical information I have gleaned from the pros. And, it was much more fun to read.

But, most impressive about the book is the fine writing which was far better than I would expect from a guy who is a propeller head by day. Bill's writing is concise, funny and always interesting. On a recent trip, the flight attendant gave me a weird look when I told her that it was a book about bread that was making me laugh out loud.

I never read The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden, figuring it was just another book about someone's gardening experience, but I have it on order now and am looking forward to reading another book from William Alexander.
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