There is one cookbook that keeps finding its way back to the kitchen bench, the big table, and the couch. Sometimes it likes to come to bed too. The Italian Baker by Carol Field is definitely my favourite cookbook, or perhaps I should say, book! It is a bible and just a joy to read. I am suggesting to Leah that this inspirational book should become her Book of the Month for the Cookbook Guru.
Why do I love this book so much? Let me recount the ways.
- It is well researched. Field spent more than two years travelling throughout Italy to capture regional and local specialties.
- The opening chapters discuss bread making in Italy, ingredients, equipment and techniques. The discussion on flour is very informative.
- The recipes include traditional breads, festive breads, torte and dolci ( biscuits and cakes) as well as chapters on modern varieties.
- Instructions are clear and easy to follow. Measurements are given in metric, imperial and cups. Separate instructions are noted for mixing by hand, mixer and processor.
- I love that she employs traditional ‘biga’ starters. Less yeast and slower to make means easier to digest!
- The photos are few; there is no celebrity chef talk.
- The Italian proverbs and sayings regarding bread would appeal to any Italophile.
- Before each recipe is a wonderful short prologue.
Here is a shortened excerpt from the prologue for Pane Toscano.
“Tuscans have been making this saltless bread for many centuries. Dante even referred to it in the Divine Comedy. Anticipating the difficulties of his exile from Florence, he speaks of them figuratively, “you shall learn how salty is the taste of another’s bread’. P 84.
All rather wonderful. Time to read Dante’s Inferno. In the meantime, I plan to cook every recipe from this book, a rather ambitious idea, given that I don’t eat many sweets and only a little bread each day. In the meantime, I propose this book to the cookbook club, and to all readers in search of an inspirational baking book.
These photos show a few things that I have made in the last few weeks. I plan to post a ‘new’ recipe from this book before the month is over.