At restaurants, I'm the person who always devours the basket of bread -- dipped in olive oil or smeared with butter -- before the appetizers come. And then, if I'm feeling bold (or particularly hungry), I ask for the basket to be refilled. That whole no-carb/low-carb/bread-is-evil trend? Not for me. I love bread and bread loves me and I've embarked this past year on an effort to learn how to make bread -- really good bread, bakery-quality bread -- at home.
I'm a baker and I've made lots of quick breads and even a few yeast breads in my life, but I've never before made a bread that you would confuse with something that you might find in your restaurant bread basket. I've tried several different methods and several different cookbooks on my recent journey, and I'm here to tell you that I've found the best one: Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. I can't claim that every loaf I've made is flawless, but I can claim that every loaf has been a pleasure to knead, shape, bake, and eat, and that I've been inspired to keep pushing forward -- into pretzels and bagels and even crackers (crackers!) -- because I love the way Reinhart's different doughs feel in my hands.
Reinhart's recipes are clear and flexible and they respect the reader without requiring elaborate techniques involving buckets and thermometers and strange baking pans and the metric system. Reinhart is a baker and an instructor and a founding member of the artisanal bread movement, and his Artisan Breads Every Day is a wonderful book. Try it out and fill your own bread basket.