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Chris Hennes

Modernist Bread Preview: What we've seen so far

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On Nov. 7, 2017, Modernist Bread will finally arrive on my doorstep. Having preordered it literally the first day it was available, to say I'm excited about this book is a bit of an understatement. The team at The Cooking Lab have been gracious enough to give @Dave the Cook and me early electronic access to the book and so I've spent the last week pouring over it. I'm just going to start with a few initial comments here (it's 2600 pages long, so a full review is going to take some time, and require a bunch of baking!). Dave and I would also be happy to answer any questions you've got.

 

One of the main things I've noticed about this book is a change in tone from the original Modernist Cuisine. It comes across as less "everything you know is wrong" and more "eighty bazillion other bakers have contributed to this knowledge and here's our synthesis of it." I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Myhrvold and company are now the most experienced bread-bakers in the world. Not necessarily in terms of the number of identical loaves they've produced, but in the shear number of different recipes and techniques they've tried and the care with which they've analyzed the results. These volumes are a distillation of 100,000 years of human breadmaking experience, topped off with a dose of the Modernist ethos of taking what we know to the next level.

 

The recipes include weight, volume, and baker's percentages, and almost all of them can be made by both a home baker and someone baking in a commercial facility. The home baker might need to compromise on shape (e.g. you can't fit a full-length baguette in most home ovens) but the book provides clear instructions for both the amateur and professional. The recipes are almost entirely concentrated in volumes 4 and 5, with very few in the other volumes (in contrast to Modernist Cuisine, where there were many recipes scattered throughout). I can't wait for the physical volumes to arrive so that I can have multiple volumes open at once, the recipes cross-reference techniques taught earlier quite frequently.

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 Is there a separate kitchen manual as there was with the two previous iterations of the modernists books?

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Yes, though the electronic proofs don't include it so I can't tell you anything about it except that it exists.

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@Chris Hennes 

 

many thanks for this preview.

 

Im looking forward to this myself.

 

is there any chance you might get permission to post a screen-shot or two from

 

your electronic preview ?

 

I know that's quite the long shot

 

still .....

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We are working with the Modernist Bread team to identify a few different recipes that we can post here so everyone can get to baking ASAP.

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One of the cool things about the book is that although they sought definitive answers to all the questions they had about baking bread, they aren't afraid to admit when they couldn't achieve that. "Calling proof," it turns out, is one of those things that simply resisted quantification. It varies too much by exactly what bread you are baking, so they end up suggesting the old "poke it with your finger" test. I'm hoping they eventually post a video of exactly what a properly-proofed post-poke springback looks like. I wound up with a pair of under-proofed loaves this weekend -- they say you need to build up an experience base, so I am doing that, anyway!

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Chris Hennes said:

"post-poke springback"

...........................................video?

 

Amen to that brother, I've been putting that down to my age.

 

But seriously is there a lot of embedded video on the website to access after purchase?

 

 


Edited by adey73 (log)

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5 minutes ago, adey73 said:

But seriously is there a lot of embedded on the website to access after purchase?

 

The text of the book doesn't have any indications of web content that I've noticed (maybe @Dave the Cook can correct me if that's not right). In the past the content of their website has basically been a blog that's been open to purchasers and non-purchasers alike. I'll see if someone from the MB team can confirm.

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$110 shipping to Australia :(

 

Apart from that, looks amazing!

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11 minutes ago, cakewalk said:

(I do wish they had led off with bread, and not chocolate-cherry stuff.) 

In the Times' defense, you could view the entire book as a treatise on how to develop your own breads, with whatever inclusions, flavorings, toppings, and fermentation methods you want. So that recipe is a sort of exemplar of what you come out with in the end: an ability to think up a flavor in your mind and turn it into bread. That said, it was not the first recipe I made from the book, either...

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1 minute ago, Chris Hennes said:

In the Times' defense, you could view the entire book as a treatise on how to develop your own breads, with whatever inclusions, flavorings, toppings, and fermentation methods you want. So that recipe is a sort of exemplar of what you come out with in end end: an ability to think up a flavor in your mind and turn it into bread. That said, it was not the first recipe I made from the book, either...

Yes, that is true. But it is also not so new, either. 

Have you tried this particular recipe? To me it looks like there's a lot of chocolate and cherry, but not very much bread. I think they could have chosen a recipe that gives a better sense of why this book is really something different. (If it is indeed that.)

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5 minutes ago, cakewalk said:

Have you tried this particular recipe?

No -- like you, I suspect, I am predominantly interested in bread-flavored bread (that is, I suppose, really grain-flavored bread). Fortunately for me, anyway, that describes the vast majority of this book. For each category of bread they provide a "master recipe", a "Modernist" variation, and maybe a "home" variation, a few ingredient variations, and a few other sorts of variations with purees, inclusions, etc.

 

For reference, the cocoa powder in the chocolate cherry bread is only scaled at 8.82% of the flour weight. And obviously you can include as many or as few chocolate chips and cherries as you like (they scaled them at about 70% each). The recipe write-up describes it as only moderately sweet, and it sounds like it was a test-kitchen favorite. Having looked closer at it now I think I'll probably give it a shot after all, I suspect my coworkers will love it.

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Posted (edited)

is there anything about Indian Naan or Turkish flatbreads?

 

and can you say they use the homogeniser for, that was in the video of the kit they used? 

 

(I have pre-ordered)


Edited by adey73 (log)
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Yes, there is a extensive discussion of various flatbreads, from many different countries. A huge portion of Volume 5 is devoted to them.

 

I'm not sure what they used the homogeniser for -- maybe one of the puree or fluid gel inclusions they highlight? All told this is a pretty equipment-light book, at least compared to Modernist Cuisine. They've got a couple of wiz-bang recipes using a centrifuge, etc., but they are definitely not the focus.

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Chris - do you think you could talk the team into doing a Q&A here on eG like the old days?

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12 hours ago, Chris Hennes said:

No -- like you, I suspect, I am predominantly interested in bread-flavored bread (that is, I suppose, really grain-flavored bread). Fortunately for me, anyway, that describes the vast majority of this book. For each category of bread they provide a "master recipe", a "Modernist" variation, and maybe a "home" variation, a few ingredient variations, and a few other sorts of variations with purees, inclusions, etc.

 

For reference, the cocoa powder in the chocolate cherry bread is only scaled at 8.82% of the flour weight. And obviously you can include as many or as few chocolate chips and cherries as you like (they scaled them at about 70% each). The recipe write-up describes it as only moderately sweet, and it sounds like it was a test-kitchen favorite. Having looked closer at it now I think I'll probably give it a shot after all, I suspect my coworkers will love it.

The choc cherry bread was apparently one of Nathan's favorites 

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2 minutes ago, Kerry Beal said:

Chris - do you think you could talk the team into doing a Q&A here on eG like the old days?

We talked about it, but it doesn't really make sense until the book is actually out and people are baking the recipes. 

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I can't for the life of me find the NYTimes article in today's paper :  Oct 3

 

the date on the web is Oct 2

 

can't find it there either

 

Im wondering if its going to be published tomorrow , Oct 3 in their Food/dinning section.

 

PS  re electric knives :

 

 

 

 

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I've forwarded questions about web content, but their team is on tour right now, so it might be a day or two before we get answers.

 

Meanwhile, I've been working my way through the first volume (History and Fundamentals). I'm obviously not as fast a reader as @Chris Hennes, nor am I as avid a baker. It is true that the tone is less "everything you know is wrong" than Modernist Cuisine was (though that's far from all it was), but there's still a fair amount of text spent on mythbusting, often in defense of the book's existence, i.e. answering the question: what makes such an ancient craft a subject for modernism? Partly, it's because while not everything you know is wrong, at least some of it is. For example:

 

Quote

The prejudice against innovation in bread making is so strong that genuinely new creations have been given old-style names to make them sound more authentic or traditional. Ciabatta is perhaps the most stunning example of faux traditionalism. [...] But ciabatta was invented in 1982---the Hostess Twinkie dates back more than twice as far! (1-148)

 

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Chris Hennes said:

Yes, there is a extensive discussion of various flatbreads, from many different countries. A huge portion of Volume 5 is devoted to them.

 

What about pizza?  If so, I sincerely hope they get it right this time.  Spewing misinformation as fact and then later correcting most of it is better than not correcting it at all, but it still falls incredibly short for serving the home pizza maker's best interests. I would hope, that in six years, Nathan and crew would have finally figured out what Neapolitan style pizza is.


Edited by scott123 (log)

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Just now, scott123 said:

What about pizza?

Oh yes, a ton of information about pizza, covering several different styles (Neapolitan, New York, and Sicilian).  From the book, though:

Quote

We encourage you to think about pizza like wine: the best pizza is the one you like, not the one someone tells you to like. (p. 5-100)

Spoiler alert: they prefer pizza baked at lower temperatures than you do, if I recall previous discussions correctly :) . That said, of course there is a big parametric table comparing the results for various time/temp combinations so you can make your own decision.

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I pre-ordered it on the first day as well, just got the news it is going to arrive between the 8th and the 11th of November. I can't wait.

Does the book discuss the microbiology of sourdough in detail? Does it look into the analysis of geographically different cultures? 

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, drago said:

I pre-ordered it on the first day as well, just got the news it is going to arrive between the 8th and the 11th of November. I can't wait.

Does the book discuss the microbiology of sourdough in detail? Does it look into the analysis of geographically different cultures? 

From what Nathan said in the talk in Toronto - there was a thorough look at the microbiology of sourdough. Geographic differences were also looked at but weren't as important as first suspected as I recall.

 

The thing that interested me was his discussion about growing an osmo-tolerent sourdough starter by selecting out the bugs. 


Edited by Kerry Beal (log)
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Chris Hennes said:

Spoiler alert: they prefer pizza baked at lower temperatures than you do.

 

So, the inventors of the biggest food related technology breakthrough in the last 20 years, steel plate for pizza, are now pushing lower temps? *Shaking my head*  I know that you can't make a horse that you've led to water drink, but what if the horse invented water?  :) 

 

As little sense as this makes, to each his/her own.  They could devote a few hundred pages to the wonders of Pizza Hut, and I wouldn't really care. As long as they stop trying to redefine Neapolitan culture, I'm good.

 

1 hour ago, Chris Hennes said:

New York

 

Oh, boy.  I am sincerely hoping for the best here, but if they're as misinformed about New York pizza as they were about Neapolitan... expect some pretty strong words from my end.

 

Edit:  I just finished looking into Chris Young's recent activities, and it doesn't appear that he's involved in Modernist Bread. It was Chris's Heston Blumenthal pedigree that was the root of most of MC's pizza related misinformation. Without Chris as a co-author, I am considerably more hopeful. Not completely hopeful :)  but I think they'll at least get the Neapolitan tradition right this time.


Edited by scott123 (log)

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