“I keep feeling as though I’m running out of things to say about bread.” Legendary baker and author of three James Beard Award-winning books Peter Reinhart uttered those words in front of an eager crowd gathered at the Test Kitchen last week. And really, who can blame him for thinking such a thing? After penning numerous books on the topic over the past quarter century, it’s only natural for Reinhart to assume upon the completion of each new book that he’s finally exhausted his topic of expertise. After brooding for a moment, however, Reinhart’s face lit up. “But after 6,000 years, we’re still learning new things.”
We’re still learning new things, and Reinhart is still writing new things. His latest book, Bread Revolution (Ten Speed Press, 2014), explores what Reinhart calls a “new frontier” in bread baking, and features fifty recipes that call for sprouted flours, whole and ancient grains, nut and seed flours, alternative flours, and allergy-friendly and gluten-free methods. On using sprouted flours, Reinhart noted that it’s something he learned to do in the early 1970s when living in Boston (where he worked at a self-proclaimed hippie-vegetarian restaurant called Root One Cafe on Massachusetts Avenue).
“I thought it was a matter of three or four years before we were going to change the world with this idea,” Reinhart joked. “It’s ironic that it’s coming back around now, 40 years later, and that I’m a part of it again.”
Reinhart brimmed with enthusiasm. “We’re verging on the tipping point of this [using sprouted wheat] becoming mainstream. We’ve passed the failsafe, and I’m very excited to see where this all goes.”
Another thing that has Reinhart buzzing is the proliferation of talented, enthusiastic hobbyists. He said that many of the best people attending the various conferences he frequents are home bakers interested in milling their own flour. And while he admits that buying a home mill is still an expensive venture, he’s hopeful that as more and more people become interested in doing so the price point will drop enough to make owning a home mill more realistic. Chuckling, he said, “Maybe there will be a Ronco mill someday.”
As his talk wound down, Reinhart emphasized the importance of taking a look at the long view, both in baking and in life.
“I didn’t start writing until I was 41,” he said. “I started out as a film major at Boston University. I thought I’d write and direct, but I realized I didn’t know which story I wanted to tell. But that ended up bringing me down this path. Things never go to waste—everything comes back around.”