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An inspiring story and inspiration for different breads you could make. But I wouldn't attempt to cook from it. Too many of the recipes are unreliable. One example, the recipe for the cover photo, Nan-e Barbari asks for 2 cups/450g water. 2 American cups is 473g. 2 Metric cups is 500g. Both are more than 450g. But it gets worse. The recipe asks for 510g bread flour. If you use the lower amount of water the hydration (the ratio of water to flour) is 88%. This is a very very wet dough and difficult to handle. The remainder of the recipe has instructions for a much drier loaf, and the photo looks like a drier dough. There are similar problems with many of the other recipes. The story behind the book is inspiring. But I don't think they've scaled the recipes from professional bakery to home kitchen with enough care and accuracy.
This is my favourite bread book for some time. The Hot Bread Kitchen is a New York bakery set up to train immigrant women to be bakers so they can earn a living, and to support them in moving on to set up their own businesses if that is what they want. Consequently the recipes are representative the backgrounds of the women who have passed through the bakery.
It covers a range starting with unleavened and yeasted flatbreads, masa (cornmeal), yeasted breads, enriched doughs, etc.Culturally it moves through North Africa, the Middle East, Bangladesh, Mexico, Europe, USA, the Jewish tradition. Throughout there are interesting food recipes to go with the breads.
Explanations are clear; measurements are in cups and grams.
As a sourdough baker I was initially disappointed that there are no sourdough recipes. But the author explains that, so as not to deter a wider readership, doughs that would contain a sourdough starter in the bakery, have had pate fermentee (a matured yeasted dough) substituted instead. She suggests that sourdough bakers simply swap the pate fermentee for starter.
Perhaps not an absolute beginners book but one for bakers of all abilities. I've been baking bread for over twenty years but I've learnt a lot from this book and will continue to do so.
Two things struck me straight away with this book.
1. Unless you have an oven which goes above Gas Mark 9 or 250 degrees C, don't buy it. You can't make half the bread recipes.
2. A book from a bakery which recommends that you buy shop-bought bread or tortillas does not inspire confidence.
It's way too New York-centric. There is little or no mention of the great central and eastern European tradition of bread making. French breads are reduced to a single baguette recipe (though at least we are given a recipe for pain levain).
Profoundly disappointed, because they could have done so much more.
I used to live in an area I could buy Nan-e Barbari bread, of the kind that is on the cover of The Hot Bread Kitchen's Cookbook. Then I moved and I had no more access to buying this lovely bread. Because I really didn't know the name of the bread, I was not successful in locating a recipe. And I was sad. I love this bread. So when I saw this cookbook cover I lusted after this book until it was available for order, which I did. And now I make my own delicious and warm from the oven Nan-e Barbari bread.
And so much more besides. The Pate Fermentee breads: the Rustic Batard, the Olive Boules, so freaking good. This book is a already a classic to me.