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A Pleasant Little Kitchen Discovers the Power of Homemade Bread
“When I think of Rome I think of many things, and the scent of freshly baked bread is one of them.”
11-07-2016
America's Test Kitchen

In Bread Illustrated—our first book devoted to bread—we show that baking a perfect loaf is no mystery: It’s just a matter of breaking recipes down into essential steps that demystify the art and science of this age-old process. After rigorous testing, we have created a roadmap to baking more than 100 foolproof breads, each accompanied by step-by-step photo tutorials.


 

We all have food memories. The taste, texture, and most often the smell of food can bring back memories not just of the food itself, but also of a place.

For Rebecca White of A Pleasant Little Kitchen, the smell of freshly baked bread triggers memories of studying abroad in Rome. “As a student of ancient history, part of my university experience was time spent in Rome studying the architectural history of antiquity,” she writes. “Every morning I awoke to something magical, the smell of freshly baked bread. I don’t know from where this aroma originated; I never investigated its origins. All I know is that it would waft through the windows and greet me every single morning.” Armed with a copy of our newest release—Bread Illustrated—Rebecca was able to bake fresh bread at home and share her memories of Rome with her friends and family in Texas. 

“Confidently bring homemade bread into your kitchen with the thorough and approachable instruction of America’s Test Kitchen. Bread Illustrated belongs on your bookshelf as a trusted resource for bread making.”

While the scent of freshly baked bread triggers memories of her time spent in Rome, Rebecca probably shares a sentiment many home cooks hold when it comes to baking bread in their own kitchens.

“Me, make bread? I’m a cook, not a baker—especially not a bread maker. I think I will pass.”

Rebecca explains her fears, writing, “Deep down inside I’m afraid I will mess up. The processes involved with bread are so specific and the failure to do one of the steps accurately can ruin the whole loaf. The rising and the kneading are my worst nightmares.”

Despite her reservations, Rebecca declared to her readers, “I will become a baker.”

No-Knead Brioche dough before being baked into a gorgeous, golden loaf.

“The more I read through the recipes, the more I realized it didn’t matter my skill set or (lack of) confidence," writes Rebecca. "Each recipe was prefaced with a discussion on why the recipe works. The instructions were articulate and easy to understand. If that wasn’t enough, there were step-by-step images that corresponded with each step (which were very nicely numbered).”

Some popover tins full of batter right before they're popped into the oven.

With Bread Illustrated in hand, Rebecca decided to make two recipes from the book. She started with popovers, a treat she often enjoys at a local bakery with her daugher. With the help of Bread Illustrated, Rebecca was able to produce perfect tall popovers at home, complete with a crisp exterior and an airy, custardy interior.

With help from a recipe from Bread Illustrated, Rebecca baked these perfect popovers.

To achieve perfect popovers that would soar to towering heights, we rested the batter for an hour before baking to relax the proteins and prevent the popovers from setting up too quickly. Plus, we suggest using a skewer to poke a hole in the top of each popover toward the end of baking and again once they are out of the oven to prevent collapse.

Next, Rebecca made No-Knead Brioche. “This recipe involved more technique, steps, and wait time,” writes Rebecca. “I was drawn to it because it was 'no knead,' and I was still avoiding my biggest baking fear (kneading). However, the bread seemed challenging and I was ready for it. Again, America’s Test Kitchen guided me through with thorough and approachable instructions.”

A Pleasant Little kitchen's take on No-Knead Brioche.

For classic brioche at home that yields buttery flavor without the laborious process of conventional brioche, we turn to a technique we used for our No-Knead Bread, in which we combine all the ingredients and let the mixture sit for hours. Lucky for Rebecca, the preparation and waiting paid off big time when her house smelled like freshly baked bread, after which she had a beautiful loaf of brioche to share with her family.

For the full reviewand more information about baking from Bread Illustratedsee the original post on A Pleasant Little Kitchen.

Bookstore

Bread Baking, Demystified Bread Illustrated

Bread Illustrated—our first cookbook devoted solely to bread baking—is a fully illustrated handbook with more than 100 meticulously tested recipes that will enable you to bake artisan bakery–quality bread at home. Each recipe is a hands-on tutorial with a timeline and photos that break down the recipe step by step, because seeing the process from start to finish helps make any recipe more approachable.

 

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