There's nothing like seeing a picture of a perfectly crusty, gorgeously browned, flour-speckled artisan loaf to make you crave the real thing. In Flour Water Salt Yeast, Portland baker Ken Forkish takes the by-now-familiar template of no-knead breads baked in a Dutch oven and runs away with it. He delves into sourdoughs, encourages whole grains, and then has us end a long day of baking with a quick pizza or three. Need any more encouragement to roll up your sleeves and pull out the yeast?
• Who wrote it: Ken Forkish, owner of Ken's Artisan Bakery in Portland, Oregon
• Who published it: Ten Speed Press
• Number of recipes: About 40 bread recipes
• Recipes for right now: Saturday White Bread, Harvest Bread with Poolish, Pain de Campagne, 75% Whole Wheat Levain Bread, Double-Fed Sweet Levain, The New Yorker Pizza, Sweet Potato and Pear Pizza, Skillet Pizza with Tomato Fillets, Garlic, and Chile
• Other highlights: The amount of detail in this book is really incredible. Each section focuses on a different kind of bread (basic breads, sourdough levain, and pizzas) and starts with an entire chapter detailing the techniques and core concepts behind that bread in both elaborate descriptions and equally elaborate photographs. If you love knowing things like how a few degrees of temperature affects final flavor, this is the book for you.
You won't need a stand mixer for any of these recipes. All the doughs are mixed by hand, and rather than kneading, the recipes just require a few "folds" to gently stretch the dough and develop gluten. The doughs are then shaped into rounds and baked to crispy perfection in a Dutch oven.
To give some context for the level of difficulty here, the recipes in this book sit squarely between Jim Lahey's practically foolproof no-knead bread and the more technically challenging artisan recipes in books like Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice and Daniel Leader's Local Breads. Some of the recipes involving sourdough levain and multiple dough-developing steps might feel overwhelming to completely new bakers, but should comfortably stretch the skills of someone ready to move beyond the basics.
I tried the recipe for Double-Fed Sweet Levain, and found the steps to be very well explained and easy to follow. Forkish includes lots of little notes on things like how the dough should look/feel/smell at a particular stage, acceptable ranges for time and temperature, and how to perform tricky steps. The final bread was great! Nice crust, spongy and chewy interior, and subtly sweet flavor.
• Who would enjoy this book? Bakers who have mastered no-knead bread and are ready to go to the next level
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish
• Visit Ken Forkish's website: Ken's Artisan Bakery
(Images: Emma Christensen)