Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cookbook Review: Flour Water Salt Yeast: the Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza

it's taken me awhile to write this post. mainly because of all the research and baking i've done with while reading this book! im well on my way to my fourth bread recipe, and i can't wait for the next baking day at home.

i bought Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast: the fundamentals of artisan bread and pizza, after searching for new baking books to read. the name instantly jumped out at me, for obvious reasons! it seems we (the authour and I) were on the same wavelength, as far as titling our projects go! after a a little detective work,  i realized i've actually been to the bakery this book hails from and indulged in their lovely breads. it was serendipty. i bought the book immediately, with baking and a book review in mind. i'm so glad i did.

the concept: 'flour water salt yeast' is highly apt for the art of bread baking, taking a few simple good ingredents with the help of invisible microrganisms and fermentation creates- bread! the alchemy of bread never ceases to amaze. in this book, the recipes rarely stray from the above 4 ingredients, except for the 'Pan au Bacon,' but who can leave out bacon?

Sweet Potato and Pear Pizza

Ken's Artisan Bakery is run by Ken Forkish, who studied at the San Francisco Baking Institute, he also apprenticed with renowned bread baker, Chad Robertson, of Tartine Bakery (san francisco).  Ken opened his doors in 2001, in Portland, Oregon. the bakery specializes in long fermented breads with high hydration content and well rounded flavour. these breads have been adored since they were first baked in the bakery 11 years ago. since then, Ken has opened a pizza spot, there are 4 different pizza base recipes in the book to choose from, and are equally as delicious as the bread recipes.

bread recipes in ths book are wetter than most and require folding, rather than kneading
since getting the book i've read it front to cover and baked three bread recipes - two with commercial yeast  and the other sourdough. being a long time baker myself, i went for a sourdough recipe (Country Brown), and since then, i've been short on time, tried out the simpler recipes (the Saturday White Bread and White Bread with Poolish). every recipe has been memorable and highly addictive.

i love Ken's in-depth writing style and way his book is meant to bring newcomers to the joys of bread baking. by starting small (with one day recipies) and working up to intermediate, then advanced recipes - some taking days to prepare, this book is for everyone wanting to bake bread. the chapters and recipes are written in a timeline from easy to advanced, so you can work your way through the book, like a bread cookery course. after which you should be a bread baking master, there's 19 recipes in all! most of the bread recipes provide handy timelines for the working person to go by, so you don't have to be home the whole day waiting for your bread to rise, like the 'saturday white bread', (which im getting ready to take out the oven as we speak), this bread was developed for days when you need bread fresh bread in a few hours, begining at 9:30 am and finishing the bread at 5:00pm in the evening.

shaping the wet doughs into loaves
the book itself is broken down into four parts. Part 1 being an introduction to bread baking and the tools needed. Part 2 is a collection of 'Basic Bread' recipes, like straight doughs, and breads made with pre-ferments. following onto the more the advanced Part 3: levain bread recipes, with understanding the levain (sourdough) method in hybrid and pure levain breads, as well as making your own sourdough from scratch. Part 4, contains 3 chapters dedicated to the art of pizza and focaccia making, favouring homebaked pizzas baked with a super high heat and pizza stones.

baking with a cast iron dutch oven
when attempting the bread recipes in this book do try and seek out a cast iron dutch oven to bake in. this is a much celebrated method of home bread baking, and is essential to creating a crust with crispy caramel colouring. breads such as these rely on steam captured in ovens to allow the loaf to rise thouroughly in the oven, and gelatinize starches in the crust. it may sound complicated, but in practice the bread does all the work for you! this method has been adopted by many professional bakers and written about in books like, The Bread Builders, and Tartine Bread. everyone should do it! look at the bread you could end up with! it's amazing.

Saturday White Bread

the final conclusion is: i'm totally inspired by this book. f you're interested n everything there is to know about bread or want to learn how to make better bread, this is the book for you. the recipes may take some time to finish, but really only involve minutes of actual active time, wth stunning results!


  1. Very Similiar to Jim Lahey's "No-knead bread" - I'm a huge fan. I've adapted his rye bread recipe to be a dark rye... If you want ask me for the recipe!

    1. i'd love the recipe! thanks for the offer. i bake bread at home every weekend, i've nearly baked my way through this book and love every loaf.

  2. Dark rye-
    300 gms bread flour
    100 gms rye flour
    8 gms table salt
    3 gms instant or other active yeast
    8 gms caraway seed
    10 gms unsweeted cocoa powder
    25 gms dark molassaes
    300 gms cool water

    Combine all all dry ingredients Add water and molasses, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

    2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

    3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with rye flour, put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

    4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

    This loaf is particularly good with corned beef or lox.

    1. sounds like a cool recipe! ill pick up some rye flour soon. i was sold on the additon of cocoa to the bread. unusual? im sure its delicious! thanks again for the recipe, i will let you know how i get on.