Peter Reinhart's instant classic The Bread Baker's Apprentice (Ten Speed Press), bears the subtitle of Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, which is an apt description of his thorough yet friendly introduction to bread making. Reinhart is a teacher who is passionate about bread, and this voice comes through on every page.
He begins with a fascinating story about his discovery of the delayed fermentation technique in bakeries in Paris. Then he dives into method and technique and explains the twelve stages of bread, with beautiful and abundant photos illustrating every step.
The rest of the book includes a whole range of recipes that go beyond the basic French loaves - several varieties of sourdough, challah, sticky buns, cornbread, rye and the most splendid pizza crust you will ever make.
All of the recipes are easy to follow without a clear understanding of the baker's formula system that Reinhart uses, but this system does offer the chance to go beyond recipes to developing a real understanding of the processes in bread making. Reinhart says, "Knowledge is power, and I think a teacher's job is all about the empowerment of his or students, regardless of the subject," and that empowerment is exactly what he offers through this book.