The first section of this book, and the aspect that drew me to buy it in the first place, is a detailed explanation of how to bake bread. The initial, basic instructions are then developed into dozens of other recipes for different types of bread, teaching you to expand on the technique learned in the early stages.
As well as bread, the Tassajara Bread Book covers yeasted pastries (with the Norwegian Coffee Cake being a particular favourite in our family), unyeasted bread, sourdough, pancakes, muffins, and an impressive variety of dessert recipes. It is far more than a 'how to' guide for making bread.
What's So Special About Tassajara Bread?
The opening section of the book, the bit that actually tells you how to bake bread, is extensive. It offers a detailed explanation of every stage in the bread making process, teaching you how to produce the perfect loaf, even if you have almost no kitchen experience. The 'sponge method' outlined by Brown in this book is used elsewhere, but I have not seen explained so carefully, with such attention to detail.
I believe that someone with no baking experience at all could buy this book and be able to produce a perfect loaf later that day. The process is time consuming, but simple, the explanation is perfect.
What About The Other Recipes?
It's true, the vast majority of people buying this book are probably lured by the promise of a better loaf. This was certainly true for me, and a quick glance at my friend's copy showed me that this would be a good buy. I hadn't expected the huge variety of other recipes.
As well as the detailed instructions, Edward Espe Brown shows us how to extend that method to create a large number of different types of bread, from French Bread to Summer Swedish Rye bread - both of these get plenty of use in our kitchen.
The sweet pastries and muffins were also a surprise. If I had to keep only one baking book from my collection, this would be it. The explicit instructions, careful illustrations and endless variations show you how to adapt recipes for your own use.
To summarise, this book is far more than an instruction manual. It will teach you the art of cooking, it helps you to become more creative, more mindful and more present in the kitchen. These are skills from which we can all benefit. Edward Espe Brown's book has stood up to over thirty years of new ideas, celebrity chefs and simplified methods. No matter which bread recipes I try, I always return to the Tassajara method. The daily loaf that I bake for my family is simple, basic Tassajara, and the method is now ingrained in my mind and my hands.
Whether you seek to learn to bake bread for the first time, or simply to enhance your existing skills, this book will teach you all that you need to know.