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Carol Field's new edition of "The Italian Baker" has been released following the first edition published 26 years ago. Some of the same deficiencies hobble use of the book that are carried over from the first version over a quarter-century ago. Field consistently uses too much yeast in most of her bread recipes and, accordingly, most dictated rising times, which vary between 1.25 hours with a couple as much as 3 hours, are too brief. Rustic breads, in particular, need long, cool rising times, often as much as 5 or more hours, with doughs that were assembled with about half to two-thirds less yeast than called for in Field's recipes. The result is confirmed by the breads made according to her directions from the new edition: the breads with short rising times suffer from inadequate flavor and aroma development. Also, Field often recommends additional warmth for doughs that will accelerate their ripening. This also detracts from flavor and aroma. Field knows this because, at points in the new book, she mentions that Italian bakers she is acquainted with use much longer rising times, and some of her recipes for rustic breads do indeed call for long rising times. My own guess is that Field accelerated rising times in many cases because she was doubtful that Americans would tolerate long, slow rising times to produce regional and rustic Italian breads. Field should take note that a well-known lady nearly 50 years ago emphasized the need to use small amounts of yeast, cool water, and long rising times when she documented for the first time how it is possible to make authentic pain ordinaire at home. That lady was Julia Child, and her recipe for "French" bread in the second volume of her famous cookbooks, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," was a revelation to American bakers and set the gold standard for approaching the art of producing really good pain ordinaire.
And there are other problems with the new edition of the "Italian Baker." Field emphasizes the value of a moist oven for the initial oven rise of shaped rustic loaves, but it is mentioned erratically in the recipes -- sometimes it is statd, sometimes the recipes are silent.
She also has an unwarranted negative stance towards natural yeast starters. They are not so demanding as she claims, and, contrary to her argument that a pseudo-natural starter can be made by using a very tiny amount of baker's yeast, the fact is that what results is just a biga or poolish that hit its stride more slowly because of the tiny pinch of baker's yeast to start it. Baker's yeast bigas and poolishes do not smell like natural, wild yeast starters, and bread made with wild yeast starters do not taste like those made with baker's yeast.
Finally, Field seems not to have internalized the dramatic surge in interest and the rapid evolution of home artisanal baking over the last quarter-century. For example, both French and Italian bakers often use autolyse that ultimately can produce superior bread by allowing the initial mixed dough to rest for up to a half-hour, or even more, before kneading the dough and setting it to rise. Autolyse does not exist in Field's repertoire. Similarly, the popularity and proven value in the last decade and more of folding doughs one, two, or even three times during long rising periods to increase gluten development, and the use of the same technique when forming loaves, has apparently had no impact on Field's methods.
As an afterword, there is no bibliography.
18 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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I usually try to be very open-minded when a cookbook doesn't have as many pics as I'd like. I tell myself that this recipe or that recipe really doesn't need a visual. But this book has such a rich array of new breads (to me anyway) that I wish there were pics to illustrate them as I am at a loss to imagine what they might look like. That deflates the balloon to get one started many times. There is a chapter in back about baked sweets (dolci) which includes biscotti, tarts, etc., then there's a section on lots of pizzas including thick Sicilian style, soups too, but for me this book was all about the breads. I have pages tagged for Olive Oil Bread, Sicilian Bread, Rosemary Bread, Five Grain Bread with walnuts, Raisin Bread, Sweet Corn Bread, Christmas Bread of Lake Como, Venetion Holiday Bread, Christmas Bread of Verona, etc...except for a few of these listed examples, I have no idea what the others should look like. The only way you would delve into an unknown bread is by first reading the title, then the opening blurb, then reading thru the ingredient list and then the step by step instructions. Unless you are a very passionate and motivated cook or baker,you will be put off by this. A picture as they say is worth a thousand words. Here it is so true. A picture can inspire and motivate you in an instant, especially with breads that are not commonplace. When spring approaches, I will delve into the Easter breads.
What I DO like very much in the layout is the way each recipe allows you to use the method of choice. For each recipe, there are three separate clearly labelled areas to find your preferred method of creating your dough: BY HAND, BY MIXER, or BY PROCESSOR. Choose the method most comfortable to you. Then each process step is clearly italicized into sections as well with: FIRST RISE, SHAPING AND SECOND RISE, and finally, BAKING. It allows your eye to find what you're looking for quickly on the page. I also am glad that measurements are listed in cups, ounces, and grams. These recipes use active yeast exclusively, and since I use instant yeast, a formula on p. 22 says to multiply the amt. of active yeast by 0.75-thus, using less instant yeast to active. I found this out after the fact, it helps to read. It didn't hurt the outcome I must say, using equal amts.
UPDATE: The 5-grain w/walnut bread bakes in a 9x4 loaf pan, very good. The Sweet Corn Bread and the Corn Bread from Lombardy I was not impressed with, would not make again. I wanted to make the pannetone but it was more complicated than the recipe in Artisan Bread in 5 mins, due to lack of time the necessity was to go with that one. I have other breads to try after the holidays.
UPDATE Jan 2012: Made the "pane all'uva" (raisin bread), so easy, great dough to handle, wonderful result! Soft, tender, pillowy interior, crispy crust, loaded with raisins, addictive, yum. Interestingly, that recipe was one that DID have a picture and pulled me in...which goes to my point....pictures DO help! The raisin bread and another I just made, the Bread of Puglia, are my faves so far. The Pane di Genzano was good, not a wow. After that raisin bread, I'm afraid I will not find anything as good.