Bread baking has always stymied me and I don’t know why. I’m hoping Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible can help. I love the way Beranbaum bases her books (Cake Bible, Pie and Pastry Bible, etc.) on the science of baking. Her writing is meticulous, clear, readable and very understandable. She also brings a thorough knowledge of baking’s chemistry to the text, whether making a chocolate cake or a brioche. She goes into great detail about the science of the recipes, and she explains why they’re written the way they are.
Beranbaum bases her recipes on weight of ingredients instead of volume, so be prepared to buy a scale no matter what you’re making. She provides extensive background on the list of necessary ingredients and equipment, a glossary, a bibliography, charts and beautiful color photographs of various bread products.
The recipe for baguettes begins on page 335 (in the chapter on Hearth Breads), and along the way you’ll learn about a poolish.
Bernard Clayton, Jr. has written The Breads of France and How to Bake Them in Your Own Kitchen. This book includes charming photos of various French breads in locations around France. Like Beranbaum’s work, Breads of France includes a glossary and a shopping guide for ingredients and batterie de cuisine. It also has a section on storing and freezing your breads, and better yet – a section on What Went Wrong? Trouble-shooting is provided, along with tips on how to make your own baguette pan from stovepipe (p 15).
Breads of France is a travel journey beginning in Le Havre, and making a counter clockwise trip around the country. There’s a small detour from Grenoble to Geneva and Wichtrach in Switzerland, and bread products from this area are included. Clayton introduces each chapter with historical background on what happened there and why, and who are the great boulangers in that city or region. I especially liked reading about his time with the great Parisian baker M. Pierre Poilane.
Your new French bread vocabulary word is poolish. I leave it to you to learn about it in one of the great bread baking books in the Boyd Library.