The introduction of the original volume of The Italian Baker (in 1995) paved the way for the current republication of The Italian Baker, Revised: The Classic Tastes of the Italian Countryside–Its Breads, Pizza, Focaccia, Cakes, Pastries, and Cookies. What a refreshment of flour and water does for a biga (a starter that creates such a beautiful development of rise and “crumb”), an updated injection of information does to enhance the text and recipes of this, the revised book.
In dough, Ms. Field unveils all the textures and flavors of Italy, respecting tradition along the way.
Ms. Field documents the methods of Italian bread-baking, with tarts, cakes, and cookies also given their due. Yet it’s the selection of pani (many different kinds of breads, from rustic and celebration to rolls and focaccias) which really delight. The author describes the art of creating doughs, from working with yeast, measuring ingredients, mixing and kneading, to rising, shaping, and baking the elemental mass with a kind of poetic discovery.
I baked the Pane al Latte (page 192, and following page), a rather elegant, lightly sweetened bread, graced with the (surprise!) ingredient of a single tablespoon of rum. The dough is shaped in an interesting way (fifteen pieces of dough are formed into tapered “cigars,” then the cigars are grouped in three sets of five each and pinched together) and yields three loaves. As suggested, the freshly baked bread is lovely served with “butter and jam.” I envision spending other days baking the Schiacciata con l’Uva (Tuscan Sweet Bread with Raisins, page 189, and following page) and the Focaccia alla Pugliese (Potato Flatbread from Puglia, page 280, and following page). The recipes underpin the heritage from which they spring.
Reading through the recipes, you’ll notice a sort of sensual reverence for bread, lifting it beyond its accessory status to its own art form. This alone makes The Italian Baker, Revised a worthy addition to your library.