On the Shelf: Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish

By: Karen Diep


Making bread is challenging.

I refuse to say that it’s hard because that will denote that is impossible–which it’s not–but it is definitely a challenge. But it’s a challenge that reaps amazing rewards. Nothing tastes better than freshly baked bread–nothing.

Despite its struggles, bread baking is one of the most rewarding tasks in the world. It needs everything–time, temperature, good ingredients, and love. You cannot make good bread without a little love and Ken Forkish just proves that in Flour Water Salt Yeast. Everything from his story to his method is inspiring. As an aspiring chef, it’s always interesting hearing the stories of how all the greats got started. Forkish mentions a few of his own personal heroes and how they inspired him to stay committed to his passion. His story is not one without bumps and bruises on the road to success. His first business failed due to the most ridiculous of reasons (exploding flour, really?) but it didn’t pull him down.

Title – Flour Water Salt Yeast: The fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza
Author – Ken Forkish
Publication Date – 2012
Publisher – Ten Speed Press
Pages – 265

Who wrote this book? Ken Forkish is a software engineer turned artisan bread baker. His passion for bread didn’t start till later in life when he was given an article from the Smithsonian about the master bread baker, Lionel Poilâne. He has travelled the world over learning and perfecting his technique of bread baking and in 2001 opened Ken’s Artisan Bakery in Portland, Oregon. After years and years of trial and error, his boulangerie-inspired bakery rose and has been rightfully recognized for its fantastic rustic, French-style breads and artisanal pastries. He has a love for pizza (also featured in the book!) and all things food.

Why get this book? Three reasons: 1) the inspiring story that will remind you that the job ain’t easy but it’s worth it, 2) the easy-to-follow-but-still-technical-approach on bread baking, and 3) the pizza recipes. Need I say more?

What makes this book special? Forkish doesn’t dumb bread down for the newbies in the crowd. Nor does he give any highly technical, convoluted explanations on bread baking. It’s a straightforward book made for both beginners and the advanced bakers. As he states, his technique is simple and requires the bare minimum of all that goes into good bread: flour, water, salt, yeast, time and temperature. The latter two which he highly emphasizes are important ingredients to bread baking. He made this book for everyone–which is extremely hard to do. Even where books like Tartine Bread, The Baker’s Apprentice and Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday exist, Forkish finds a very comfortable spot on anyone’s bookshelf (or countertop).

What’s in the book? The book is split into four sections with a few essays on special topics scattered in between. The first section is on the background and story of Ken Forkish and his bakery. He then leads to the principles (eight of them) behind artisanal bread and the equipment and ingredients required to create said product. Part two goes over basic bread recipes including the method, straight doughs and doughs made with pre-ferments. In the third section, Forkish introduces levain bread recipes including what they are, the method to making them and different types of levain doughs. Then, last but not least, part four goes over pizza (PIZZA!) including recipes, methods, doughs and focaccia.

Part 1: The Principles of Artisan Bread
Part 2: Basic Bread Recipes
Part 3: Levain Bread Recipes
Part 4: Pizza Recipes

The Last Word If bread was a religion, it’d have a strong and loyal following. Bread, in some form or another, has been prevalent throughout history ever since man learned how to make fire (probably). which is probably why there are a million and one books on bread baking. It may seem redundant to continue this trend but Flour Water Salt Yeast just proves that there is always room for improvement. Be it methodology or simply a new perspective on ingredients, Forkish does a new take on both. With only four ingredients, Forkish reminds us all that bread baking is a simple fair that requires only passion, persistence, and genuine love.


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