Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Italian Baker by Carol Field

This is a book for Italian bread fanatics or for professional bakers, because it is far beyond what the amateur home baker is probably interested in.  The supplies alone will set someone back quite a bit of money.  But if you are determined to make authentic looking and tasting Italian regional breads in your own home, then this is the book for you.

Just the basic instructions, and an explanation of the equipment and techniques necessary to get the right results, take up one quarter of the book.  There is a full index, too, along with a U.S. website that offers sources for the sometimes difficult to find ingredients, and there are even 800 numbers provided in case you need that ingredient pronto!

There is even a long history of Italian bread making, beginning in pre-history and going along to the present day.  The author states:

Bread gives us real glimpses into the complex and fascinating history of all the regions of the country.

The instructions for most breads are provided for bakers working by hand, by mixer, and by food processor. 

Special kneading techniques for various types of bread are described, as well as the use of the baking stone, and cast iron pans with rice to add moisture to the bread while baking.  I found that not all the instructions were clear, however.  Adding more images would help.

All attempts are made to recreate the chewy-porous breads that come from Italy's high-gluten flour and from cooking break in wood-burning stoves. 

Regional and rustic breads, modern breads, dishes make with bread leftovers, holiday breads, rolls and breadsticks, pizzas and focaccias are all covered in the book.  But while bread is the main focus of the book, it also covers some sweets, such as tarts, cakes, cookies, and sweet breads.

I may try some of the recipes, but the ones that require several days to prepare, and much money to spend on special ingredients and supplies, I'll take a pass on.  As I wrote above, this really is a book for an Italian break fanatic, and I'm not one.

From the book's description:

Who can resist bruschetta rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, almond-studded biscotti dipped in coffee or wine, and, of course, a thin-crusted pizza with fresh, sweet tomatoes and tangy mozzarella? These Italian classics that Americans know and love are just the beginning; there are a wealth of other equally delicious breads and sweets waiting to be discovered.

In this groundbreaking classic—now thoroughly updated for today’s modern kitchen—Carol Field introduces artisanal doughs and techniques used by generations of Italian bakers. Every city and hill town has its own unique baking traditions, and Field spent more than two years traversing Italy to capture the regional and local specialties, adapting them through rigorous testing in her own kitchen.

Field’s authentic recipes are a revelation for anyone seeking the true Italian experience. Here’s a chance to make golden Altamura bread from Puglia, chewy porous loaves from Como, rosemary bread sprinkled with coarse sea salt, dark ryes from the north, simple breads studded with toasted walnuts, succulent fig bread, and Sicilian loaves topped with sesame seeds.

The Italian Baker is the only comprehensive book, in English or Italian, to cover the entire range of Italian baking, from breadsticks and cornetti to focaccia, tarts, cakes, and pastries. There is even a chapter on using leftover bread—with recipes ranging from hearty Tuscan bread soup to a cinnamon and lemon-scented bread pudding.

Winner of the International Association of Culinary Professionals Award for best baking book, The Italian Baker was also named to the James Beard Baker’s Dozen list of thirteen indispensable baking books of all time. It has inspired countless professionals and home cooks alike. This latest edition, updated for a new generation of home bakers, has added four-color photography throughout, plus new recipes, ingredients and equipment sections, source guides, and weights. One of the most revered baking books of all time, The Italian Baker is a landmark work that continues to be a must for every serious baker.

Here is a direct link to the book at

This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, the author of the crime-romance novel THE HAGUE, a traditional murder mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.

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