A while back, Zach stumbled upon Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza at— you guessed it— our good ol’ local library. He’s been interested in baking for years, and had treated me to some loaves that I adored but he didn’t because they fell short of the Platonic ideal he was looking for. However, inspired by this book, he started up a sourdough “pet” and soon began making the most delicious artisan loaves I have ever tasted. Even he thinks they’re great! After several months of using the recipes and checking and re-checking the book out from the library, we finally bought it on Amazon and added it to our collection.
Forkish, who owns a bread/pizza kitchen in Portland, is passionate about teaching home bakers to make bread that is just as good as a professional’s loaf. This attitude appeals to Zach’s sensibilities: making bread requires care, precision, and good technique. (I prefer to slop through things, which is why I’m glad Zach enjoys baking and brewing.) There is some special equipment involved because bread only forms a perfect crust under a very specific set of circumstances, in this case a cast iron Dutch oven that evens out the heat and maintains high humidity.
The book begins with some general instructions that apply to all kinds of bread-making, then moves on to chapters that each discuss a specific method— such as “straight doughs” or “levain [sourdough] doughs”— including several recipes to illustrate each style. Zach’s favorite go-to recipe is the “Overnight Country Blonde,” a sourdough loaf that encapsulates everything wonderful about bread: chewy crust, airy crumb, superb flavor. He’s also tried a 75% whole wheat recipe from the book, which was surprisingly light and had a delicious nutty flavor, as well as a pizza crust that considerably elevated the quality of that meal. I’m excited to see what other recipes he tries!
In short, if you’re interested in baking as a hobby/art, rather than just a day-to-day cooking task, I highly recommend this book. The methods are foolproof, and being able to offer someone a steaming boule of homemade artisan bread is one of the great joys of life.