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Baking bread at home can be one of the most satisfying — or frustrating — endeavors for the home cook.

Bread baking can fill the house with wondrous, comforting aromas that hearkens back to simpler times. But any feel-good emotions of nostalgia can be quickly dashed when the crumb ends up mealy or the crust turns out pale, or hard as a brick instead of light and crackly.

I pretty much gave up on making homemade bread when we moved to our Livonia home years ago and discovered the original Cantoro Italian Market on Middle Belt just a mile or so away. Baked on site, seeing people buy dozens of loaves at a time isn’t uncommon. (Apparently, people who don’t live as close as I do take them home and freeze them. And the first time I was told they couldn’t run the one-pound loaf I was buying through the slicer because “it’s still too warm” I hurried up, paid and ended up eating a good part of the loaf in my car, ripping out hunks at a time.

But a new book from the editors of America’s Test Kitchen, “Bread Illustrated: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Bakery-Quality Results at Home” ($29.95) looks to minimize the frustrations and demystify, through science and explanation, what can be a formidable process.

It’s the organization’s first book devoted to bread. The goal was to break down recipes into essential steps and, in the process, create a type of roadmap to create more than 100 breads the book deems “foolproof.”

“Our readers know when we dive into a topic we really dive into it and we’re going to come back with something they can rely on and trust,” said Dan Zuccarello, executive food editor for America’s Test Kitchen. “We’ve compiled recipes for the novice baker, a home cook who is maybe a little intimidated about baking.”

The book is broken down by recipes that start out simple (quick cheese bread, southern-style cornbread, fluffy dinner rolls) and move toward the more complex. Along the way, the recipes — complete with several pictures showing the process — offer helpful hints and troubleshooting tips.

The loaf doesn’t rise during baking? Don’t overmix the dough. The bread seems gummy or soggy? Test for doneness by inserting a wooden skewer in the center. It’s ready when the skewer comes out clean.

“We have come up with ways people can approximate bakery-quality techniques in their own kitchen,” Zuccarello said. “One of the frustrations for people getting into the world of bread is that a lot of bread books are done in the language of the professional baker. They can be hard to navigate and that was something we were aware of in creating this book.”

People don’t even need fancy equipment, he continued.

“You can make bakery-quality bread with a few pieces of equipment,” Zuccarello said. “Probably things you already have in the kitchen.”

As the book progresses, home cooks are guided through more advanced techniques, including shaping knotted Kaiser rolls and even grinding wheat berries. One might have to work up to the pain de campagne — the round country loaf found in French homes, but the journey to the more advanced baking no longer seems so daunting.

One of Zuccarello’s favorites is the classic Italian bread recipe found in the beginning of the book. It’s a good recipe in which a baker can get started mastering the techniques. With just six ingredients, including a cup of room-temperature beer and some salt, it’s a recipe that gives a lot of flavor without a lot of work, he said.

“You always want your first loaf to make you feel like ‘this is something I can do,’ ” he said.

spardo@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2112

Twitter: @stevepardo_DN

Butter Fan Rolls

From “Bread Illustrated” from America’s Test Kitchen

3 1/2 cups (17 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

2 teaspoons salt

3/4 cup (6 ounces) whole milk, room temperature

12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar

1 large egg plus 1 large yolk, room temperature

Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk milk, 8 tablespoons melted butter, sugar, and egg and yolk in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until sugar has dissolved. Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and clears sides of bowl, about 6 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed.

Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Grease 12-cup muffin tin. Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter, divide in half, and cover loosely with greased plastic. Press and roll 1 piece of dough (keep remaining piece covered) into 15-by-12-inch rectangle, with long side parallel to counter edge.

Using pizza cutter or chef’s knife, square off edges of rectangle, then cut dough vertically into 6 (2 1/2-by-12-inch) strips. Brush tops of 5 strips evenly with 1 tablespoon melted butter, leaving 1 strip unbuttered. Stack strips on top of each other, buttered to unbuttered side, finishing with unbuttered strip on top; cut into 6 stacks.

Place stacks cut side up in muffin cups. Repeat with remaining dough and 1 tablespoon melted butter. Cover muffin tin loosely with greased plastic and let dough rise until nearly doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Unrisen rolls can be refrigerated for at least 8 hours or up to 16 hours; let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before baking.)

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake rolls until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking. Let rolls cool in muffin tin for 5 minutes, brush with remaining melted butter, and serve warm. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 274 calories; 13 g fat (8 g saturated fat; 43 percent calories from fat); 33 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 63 mg cholesterol; 404 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

From “Bread Illustrated” from America’s Test Kitchen

For the dough

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 32 pieces

3 3/4 cups (20 2/3 ounces) bread flour

3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) nonfat dry milk powder

1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) water, room temperature

1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) golden raisins

For the filling

1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water and pinch salt

For the dough: Toss butter with 1 tablespoon flour in bowl and set aside to soften. Whisk remaining flour, milk powder, and yeast together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk water, sugar, and egg in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until sugar has dissolved. Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add water mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let dough rest for 20 minutes.

Add salt to dough and knead on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, about 8 minutes. With mixer running, add butter, a few pieces at a time, and knead until butter is fully incorporated, about 4 minutes. Continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low, slowly add raisins, and mix until incorporated, about 1 minute.

Transfer dough to lightly greased large bowl or container. Using greased bowl scraper (or your fingertips), fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 45 degrees and fold dough again; repeat turning bowl and folding dough 6 more times (total of 8 folds). Cover tightly with plastic and let dough rise for 45 minutes. Repeat folding, then cover bowl tightly with plastic and let dough rise until nearly doubled in size, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter, divide in half, and cover loosely with greased plastic. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining piece covered), press and roll into 11-by- 6-inch rectangle, with short side parallel to counter edge. Stretch and fold dough lengthwise into thirds to form 11-by-3-inch rectangle. Roll dough away from you into firm ball, keeping roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go. Cover balls loosely with greased plastic.

For the filling: Whisk all together in bowl until well combined. Coat 1 dough ball lightly with flour and place on lightly floured counter. With seam side down, flatten ball with rolling pin into 18-by-7-inch rectangle, with short side parallel to counter edge. Mist surface of dough with water. Sprinkle half of sugar mixture over dough, leaving 1/4-inch border on sides and 3/4-inch border on top and bottom, and press lightly to adhere. Mist filling with water until entire surface is speckled.

Roll dough away from you into firm cylinder, keeping roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go. Pinch seam and ends closed. Dust cylinder lightly on all sides with flour, cover loosely with greased plastic, and let rest for 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough ball and filling.

Grease two 8 1/2-by -4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Using bench scraper, cut 1 cylinder in half lengthwise. Turn halves cut side up and gently stretch into 14-inch lengths. Arrange strips side by side, perpendicular to counter edge, and pinch far ends together. Take left strip of dough and lay over right strip of dough. Repeat, keeping cut sides up, until pieces of dough are tightly twisted. Pinch remaining ends together. Transfer loaf cut sides up to prepared pan. Press dough gently into corners of pan and push any exposed raisins into seams of braid. Repeat with second loaf. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until loaves reach 1 inch above lip of pans and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Gently brush loaves with egg mixture and bake until crust is well browned, about 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees, tent loaves with aluminum foil, and continue to bake until loaves register 200 to 205 degrees, 15 to 25 minutes. Let loaves cool in pans for 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and let cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours, before serving. Makes 16 servings.

Per serving: 295 calories; 7 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 21 percent calories from fat); 52 g carbohydrates; 24 g sugar; 40 mg cholesterol; 343 mg sodium; 8 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Spinach-Ricotta Calzones

From “Bread Illustrated” from America’s Test Kitchen

For the dough

2 cups (11 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons bread flour

1 1/8 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 cup (6 ounces) ice water

For the filling

10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

8 ounces (1 cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 cup)

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large egg yolk

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water and pinch salt

For the dough: Pulse flour, yeast, and salt in food processor until combined, about 5 pulses. With processor running, add oil, then ice water, and process until rough ball forms, 30 to 40 seconds. Let dough rest for 2 minutes, then process for 30 seconds longer.

Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Unrisen dough can be refrigerated for at least 8 hours or up to 16 hours; let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping in step 4.)

For the filling: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Cut two 9-inch square pieces of parchment paper. Combine spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, oil, egg yolk, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper flakes in bowl.

Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter, divide in half, and cover loosely with greased plastic. Press and roll one piece of dough (keep remaining piece covered) into 9-inch round of even thickness. Transfer to parchment square and reshape as needed. Repeat with remaining piece of dough.

Spread half of spinach filling evenly over half of each dough round, leaving 1-inch border at edge.

Brush edges with egg mixture. Fold other half of dough over filling, leaving 1/2-inch border of bottom half­ uncovered.

Press edges of dough together, pressing out any air pockets in calzones. Starting at one end of calzone, place your index finger diagonally across edge and pull bottom layer of dough over tip of your finger and press to seal.

Using sharp knife or single-edge razor blade, cut 5 steam vents, about 1 1/2-inches long, in top of calzones. Brush tops with remaining egg mixture. Transfer calzones (still on parchment) to rimmed baking sheet, trimming parchment as needed to fit. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Transfer calzones to wire rack and discard parchment. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Per serving: 602 calories; 26 g fat (11 g saturated fat; 39 percent calories from fat); 61 g carbohydrates; 1 g sugar; 151 mg cholesterol; 1,098 mg sodium; 31 g protein; 4 g fiber.

Variation

Three-Meat Calzones

Omit spinach, oregano, salt, and pepper flakes from filling. Toss 4 ounces sliced salami, 4 ounces sliced capicola, and 2 ounces sliced pepperoni, all quartered, together in bowl. Working in three batches, microwave meats between triple layers of paper towels on plate for 30 seconds to render some fat; use fresh paper towels for each batch. Let meats cool, then add to ricotta mixture. Makes 4 servings.

Bruschetta Three Ways

From Sarah Moulton, Associated Press

12 slices 1/2-inch thick rustic bread

Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing the bread

1 garlic clove, halved

Kosher salt

For the bread: Preheat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Brush both sides of the bread slices with the oil. Add the bread to the preheated grill, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until bread is nicely browned on both sides (about 1 minute a side).

Remove the bread from the pan and, while it’s still hot, rub one side of each slice with a cut clove of garlic, then sprinkle it very lightly with kosher salt. Serves 4.

Per serving: 256 calories; 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 15 percent calories from fat); 45 g carbohydrates; 1 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 552 mg sodium; 8 g protein; 2 g fiber.

White Bean Salad

1/3 cup minced red onion

One 15 1/2-ounce can white beans

1/3 cup finely diced fresh fennel or celery

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (optional)

Kosher salt

In a bowl of ice and water, soak the onion for 15 minutes, drain and pat dry

Drain and rinse the white beans and pat them dry. In a medium bowl, mash the beans using a potato masher, leaving about half in large pieces and the rest mashed. Add the onion, fennel, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, hot pepper flakes, and salt to taste and stir well. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 199 calories; 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 34 percent calories from fat); 25 g carbohydrates; 1 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 73 mg sodium; 8 g protein; 5 g fiber.

Chopped Greek Salad

1 cup coarsely chopped cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup 1/4-inch dice seedless cucumber

1/2 cup finely cubed or crumbled feta

1/3 cup coarsely chopped pitted Kalamata olives

1/4 cup chopped pepperoncini

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and stir gently until just combined. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 175 calories; 15 g fat (0 g saturated fat; 79 percent calories from fat); 6 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 17 mg cholesterol; 691 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Salmon Rillettes

8 ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped

1/4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons minced shallot

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives, tarragon or dill or a mix

2 tablespoons well drained capers, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Black pepper to taste

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir gently until just combined. Chill until ready to serve. Serves 4.

Per serving: 214 calories; 7 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 28 percent calories from fat); 3 g carbohydrates; 1 g sugar; 89 mg cholesterol; 195 mg sodium; 36 g protein; 0 g fiber.

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