Bread 1: English Muffins
Description: You have probably encountered English muffins before, so I'll keep this brief. They are small and round, yeasted, pan-cooked breads that are typically split, toasted, and topped with butter and/or jam. To be honest, I don't know whether English muffins are supposed to be full of nooks and crannies or whether it's just Thomas brand marketing getting in my head.
Difficulty: Dough: easy, Shaping & Baking: moderate
Comments: Sadly, this is my first Peter Reinhart bread where I was pretty underwhelmed. As mentioned, I have come to expect nooks and crannies in my English muffins from large air bubbles, but these, as Mary Berry might say, were quite "close-textured." It might have been my own fault, since I had trouble determining how long to proof the dough and when to flip the muffins in the skillet. They were still tasty with a mild flavor and moderate chewiness, but I would definitely try a different English muffin recipe before returning to this one. I also tried the option of making English muffin bread with half the dough, but it was basically the same eating experience in a different shape.
Bread 2: Casatiello
Description: The Italian cousin of brioche, this buttery bread is further flavored by grated Provolone cheese and chunks of salami, or pepperoni in this case.
Comments: So tasty! This is my favorite bread from the book so far. It was a bit less buttery than the brioche I made, which meant the gluten developed enough for it to be deliciously bready and chewy. I loved hitting the salty meaty bits inside, and the cheese flavored the whole loaf. I would definitely make this again!
Bread 3: Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread
Description: This was a basic white bread loaf spruced up with cinnamon, raisins, and walnuts. Reinhart also gives the option of adding a cinnamon sugar swirl, which takes this bread from good to amazing.
Comments: I loved this bread too! Without the cinnamon sugar swirl, it is a somewhat plain but tasty loaf excellent for toasting and buttering. With the swirl, it's basically a giant cinnamon bun. I especially loved the crispy sweet crust you get from brushing the just-baked loaf with melted butter and sprinkling with cinnamon sugar. I would definitely make this super delicious and hearty bread again!
Bread 4: Challah
Description: This is a delicious eggy Jewish braided bread. It has a nice chew and is brushed with egg before going in the oven to create a shiny golden crust.
Comments: I love challah. I have tried three different recipes now and enjoyed them all. Comparing this to the other versions I have tried, I would say it's a little bit less tender than Smitten Kitchen's challah (which uses more oil and all-purpose instead of bread flour) and a little bit less flavorful than Hot Bread Kitchen's challah (which uses a preferment). Still, it was fun and easy to make and had a nice flavor. I rated it as moderate difficulty because I have trouble with braided breads. They tend to look decent right after braiding, but then they turn into amorphous blobs after proofing. Maybe I don't make my dough stiff enough or maybe I let the loaves proof too long. It didn't help that I was feeding and bathing my baby throughout the whole shaping and proofing process, but I digress. One thing I liked about this recipe is that it used only egg white for the glaze on the crust instead of a whole egg. The crust ended up nice and golden still, but it was light and crispy instead of shred-your-mouth thick. I might make this specific recipe again, but I would just as soon use a different challah recipe too.