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Bread for Beginners: Baking basics with From No-Knead to Sourdough

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It's a rare cookbook that makes me want to turn on the oven at the height of summer, but From No-Knead to Sourdough is no common tome. Victoria Redhed Miller, author of Pure Poultry and Craft Distilling, explains that although she lived in Seattle for the first 45 years of her life, she's always been drawn to small towns and the homesteading ethos. Fascinated by the possibilities of homemade bread, she experimented with countless flours, yeasts and processes. The resulting book is a little bit like having a super knowledgeable, slightly bossy friend in the kitchen. From the "Sexy Science Talk" sidebars to an explanation of fermentation times, she advises the reader to just trust her, even if the advice goes against what you previously thought you knew about bread.

I tried the "low maintenance levain" (p. 36), and the loaf I baked from it was a revelation. I've never been a strong baker, and despite an overdone crust that required strenuous sawing the inside was wonderfully springy and delicately sour. Miller's recipes aren't hard, but they're cerebral. For instance you'll need to think about when you want to commit to the regimen of mix, ferment, proof and bake and plan your time accordingly. But with so many possibilities for bagels, challah, skillet breads and big artisan loaves, the logistical challenges are well worth it.

Sheri Boggs is a librarian with the Spokane County Library District.