The importance of “working” the dough
In Crust, Richard Bertinet aims to show us how to apply the straightforward bread-baking approach he had illustrated in his brilliant first book, Dough, to slightly more complex doughs, such as sourdough. But fret not. There are also perfectly doable recipes for breads like baguettes and ciabattas, and you don’t have to own Dough to enjoy Crust, as Bertinet reviews his method for working, folding, dividing, and shaping the dough in great detail, dispensing useful tips for preparing the oven and acquiring the necessary tools and ingredients.
Bertinet’s philosophy for making delicious bread at home is fairly simple, at least on paper. It involves creating the right oven environment to allow a nice crunchy crust to form slowly and a method for mixing the dough that incorporates lots of air, producing a light, airy interior. Bertinet doesn’t knead his bread dough in the traditional sense of pushing it with palms and knuckles. Instead, he “works” the dough by lifting it in the air, slapping it back on the work surface, and quickly folding it onto itself many, many times, until it loses much of its stickiness and becomes smooth and malleable. This method takes a bit of practice, but it’s well worth it: The ciabattas I baked were light and airy inside, with a lovely, crisp crust. (The DVD that comes with the book is indispensable if you want to nail Bertinet’s technique.)
The book is divided into five sections: Tools & Techniques; Slow, covering doughs with a slow rise; Different, including bagels and spelt bread; Sweet; and Fact & Fiction, which dispels some common myths about bread. I found only one notable drawback: Bertinet calls for fresh yeast (also called compressed or cake yeast), which can be hard to find in American stores. The good news is that you can substitute instant yeast by using one-third of the required amount of fresh yeast.