Review: Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza

Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not an incredible baker, I’m an average baker. When I bake breads – my family is often happy with the taste, but my wife always says – “All that work and we could have bought bread that’s just as good from Wegmans.” So, not show-stopping or anything. And, out of all my hobbies, I practice it the least often because of the time commitments. (Gotta be home to start the bread, proof the bread, bake the bread)

That said, I love how the house smells when the bread is baking. I love the satisfaction of having transformed a dusty thing (flour) and some liquids (water and maybe butter or milk) into bread. I wish I’d gotten into it back when I used to overeat carbs, because bread is so delicious.

Ken Forkish takes things back to basics with this book. Unlike other recipes I’ve made in the past, there are just the four ingredients of the title. That’s it. That’s all you NEED to make bread. Forkish also uses a method that doesn’t require a stand mixer or food processor (again, wish I’d discovered this book earlier). Instead he uses a “folding” method and a “pincer” method to achieve all the kneading necessary. Then (similarly, but not exactly) like the no-knead bread recipes, the breads rise over the course of most of a day or overnight. Afterwards, a simple proof in a basket – no need for scoring (which I’m never good at). Throw it in a dutch oven and you’ve got some amazing bread.

I’ve made a few of the recipes in here to great success. Next up for me (from this book) are what I call the “baby sour doughs” – poolish and biga breads. Instead of doing a simple autolyse for 30 minutes, you leave a chunk of the flour and yeast eating overnight to develop more flavor (but without the time commitment of a sour dough culture) and then bake it in the next day.

There are also some pizza recipes in here. I haven’t made them yet, but Forkish has a pizza book (which I also own) in which he says, in the introduction, that bread dough for pizza is OK, but he’s since opened a pizza shop and discovered new techniques that are more important for pizza making. At some point I’ll probably make both and compare.

If you made it this far, I will summarize thusly:
This is ALMOST the perfect book for the beginner baker. It doesn’t require any equipment other than a food scale. No need for a mixer or anything like that. I don’t even own a banneton – I proof my loaves in colenders with a kitchen towel. Afterwards, if you figure that you like to bake bread, I recommend either America’s Test Kitchen Bread Illustrated (which I’ve read and baked from) or The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (which I haven’t read yet, but I respect the author and I do own it and plan to read it at some point)

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