14 December 2013

Weekend Cooking: A Passion for Bread by Lionel Vatinet

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A Passion for Bread by Lionel VatinetMaster baker Lionel Vatinet grew up on the wonderful breads of his native France, where fresh-baked loaves took the place of honor at the center of the table for every meal. Although he tried several trades, the moment he started work at a local bakery, he knew he had found his passion.

In his new bread book, A Passion for Bread, Vatinet shares both his story and his knowledge. He learned his art through the rigorous apprenticeship program at Les Compagnons du Devoir, which includes years of study, perfecting many techniques under a variety of situations. After baking his masterpiece loaf, Vatinet was admitted into the guild as a true Master Baker.

At the heart of this wonderful cookbook are Vatinet's "seven steps to making great bread." His detailed instructions, accompanied by the numerous clear photographs, guarantee that anyone--and I mean anyone--can bake wonderful bread in his or her own home kitchen. Even if you are afraid of yeast or have tried and failed at baking bread in the past, you will find success under Vatinet's guidance.

He developed his seven steps to great bread while teaching friends, family, and customers how to bake, both in casual settings and in monthly classes at his North Carolina bakery/cafe. There is no mystery to the steps (measuring, kneading, rising, dividing, shaping, rising, and baking), but the path to great bread is found in how those steps are carried out and the ingredients used.

Unlike most bread books, Vatinet spends about 30 pages explaining the process through words and photographs. He uses bullet lists of tips, he presents multiple techniques to match your equipment and skills, and he holds your hand every step of the way.

Even better, his recipes and methods are geared to the home cook. You don't need any fancy equipment whatsoever, just some big bowls, an instant-read thermometer, some pans, a baking stone, and a few other items. Vatinet, however, does recommend other kitchen tools, which you can accumulate as you get into baking more often. For example, you might end up wanting a heavy-duty stand mixer with a dough hook, rising baskets, and dough scrapers.

The recipes themselves cover all the basic breads, including farmhouse breads, whole grain loaves, baguettes, rolls, focaccia, sourdough breads, and flavored loaves. The last chapter takes you beyond the loaf to croutons, crumbs, stuffings, sandwiches, and more.

Each recipe follows the seven-step plan and includes multiple cross-references to the master chapter, in case you forget a technique or need even more photographs. Pretty much every page of the book contains multiple photos showing you what to do from measuring to kneading to preparing the dough for baking.

Experienced bakers and baker wannabes will refer to A Passion for Bread over and over. Lionet Vatinet has generously shared the keys to good baking that he has learned and developed through years of experience. This is one of the best bread books I've seen in years. Get a copy for yourself and a couple to give as gifts.

I'm not going to share a recipe because you really need to see the photographs and read the basic seven-step chapter to get all the benefits of Vatinet's technique and instruction. The photos on this page show my first experience with A Passion for Bread. I made the Frenchman's Cornbread, which is a yeasted loaf that has about a third coarse cornmeal to two thirds white bread flour. Vatinet's recipe called for three types of onions, but I left them out and used red pepper flakes and some Parmesan cheese instead (it suited our dinner better).

For more on Vatinet and to see some great photographs, visit his website. If you're in the North Carolina area, stop in his shop or sign up for a baking class. I sure wish I could do both.

Hachette Book Group / Little, Brown, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780316200622
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Anonymous,  12/14/13, 7:14 AM  

Oh my I think I need to get this book very soon! I'm a keen bread baker and I find the whole process fascinating, so this sounds perfect!

jama 12/14/13, 7:25 AM  

Your Frenchman's Cornbread turned out beautifully!

This definitely sounds like a thorough must-have book for keen bread bakers. Yum!

Joy 12/14/13, 8:46 AM  

What a beautiful loaf! This looks like the perfect book to wean me off my bread machine!

Joy's Book Blog

Too Fond 12/14/13, 9:23 AM  

Sorry, but I screwed up my linky somehow and had to post twice. My brain is not firing on all cylinders today...

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 12/14/13, 10:32 AM  

A must-read for me! Thank you!

kay - Infinite Shelf 12/14/13, 10:33 AM  

Oh, this sounds like a perfectly delicious book! We have only one single bread recipe we use, but it had made me very curious about making more, in different ways. I think I am adding this book to my wishlist!

April 12/14/13, 11:16 AM  

I'm a decent cook but a hopeless baker. This book gives me hope!

Unknown 12/14/13, 12:24 PM  

I'm far from an expert bread baker. This sounds like the perfect book for me to learn some solid techniques.

Kailana 12/14/13, 1:23 PM  

I definitely have a passion for bread. haha. A book I will have to look into!

(Diane) bookchickdi 12/14/13, 2:53 PM  

I love bread but I have not made many bread recipes. This sounds the perfect gift for someone who likes to bake bread.

bermudaonion 12/14/13, 4:56 PM  

I have never been able to master the art of baking bread so this book kind of intimidates me. I'd love to visit his bakery, though.

Jackie McGuinness 12/14/13, 7:03 PM  

YUM nothing like good bread!!!

Thanks for dropping by and visiting me!

Couscous & Consciousness 12/15/13, 1:17 AM  

Looks like a great book, Beth - I love baking my own bread and I'm always on the lookout for new bread baking books and recipes. Thanks for hosting again.

Peaceful Reader 12/15/13, 1:23 AM  

I love good bread! Wish some elves would make me a few loaves while I sleep!

shelleyrae @ book'd out 12/15/13, 8:01 AM  

I've just started making bread and though I've been pretty successful so far I'd like to learn more and experiment. I'll have to look for this, sounds useful.

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

Cecelia 12/15/13, 4:10 PM  

Mmmm... that bread looks amazing! If I decide to go on a bread-making spree, I'll definitely check out this book as a reference.

Sheila (Bookjourney) 12/15/13, 6:22 PM  

I am a finicky bread eater - it has to be grainy and delicious - plain old white I avoid.... this looks fantastic... I can almost smell it!

Debbie 12/16/13, 3:06 AM  

I wish I could make bread like that. I'm not very good at it.
It's beautiful....looks good enough to eat!

Daryl 12/16/13, 10:35 AM  

i used to bake bread ...

Tea 12/21/13, 11:57 AM  

There is nothing like kneading dough. Have never seen bread baked in a bundt pan. Might come back to the group next week. Miss the posts.

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