electronic Gourmet Guide


What You Knead:
Three Simple Yeast Doughs That Turn into
Dozens of Breads, Pizzas, Savory Pies, and Desserts

What You Knead

by Mary Ann Esposito


"I'm afraid to work with yeast." No sentence is uttered more often in the American home kitchen. Bread is one of the most basic human foods that has been made for thousands of years, but breadmaking frightens today's cooks. There are no reasons for this fear and Mary Ann Esposito has decided to do something about it. What You Knead (William Morrow & Co.; September 3, 1997; $22.00/hardcover) gives home cooks everything they need to know to make three basic yeast doughs and then shows how to turn these doughs into over fifty breads, pizzas, savory pies, and desserts.

Mary Ann Esposito, the creator and host of the PBS Ciao Italia cooking series, writes in her calming, personal, straightforward style. The recipes reflect her Italian heritage. The first yeast dough, called the Straight Dough, is made into Pane Casereccio, homemade bread, an honest beautiful loaf and other exciting variations, include Grissini Rustici (country breadsticks), Tangy Tomato Logs, Tuscan Rosemary and Currant Rolls, and Spicy Mustard, Potato, and Red Onion Pizza.

The next basic yeast recipe is Nonna's Sponge Dough, an original recipe from Mary Ann's grandmother. Created with a madre (mother dough or starter), this traditional Italian method is accomplished by frugally using the starchy potato water lett over from boiling potatoes for mashed potatoes. This technique creates a dough with more "strength." It's a denser, chewier bread with more of a tang. with a little practice and patience, anyone can make Bread Basket Bread, Focaccine with Herbs, Grilled Pizza, and Pumpkin Seed, Sage, and Pancetta Bread.

Mary Ann's Simply Sweet Dough is all you need for re-creating all the delicious desserts displayed in a pastry shop window. Make your own Fig, Chocolate, and Walnut Braid, Sunday Coffee Cake, and Plum Kuchen. For a real treat, make Sicilian lce Cream Cones and feel like you are in a Southern Italian piazza on a warm summer day.

One of the reasons bread is such a staple is that it is a necessary ingredient in many recipes. The chapter on "Beyond Bread Crumbs" gives recipes for what to do if there is any leftover homemade bread. Bread Pudding can be made better and extra special by using bread made with your own hands. Make salads better by creating your own crunchy croutons or a delicious bread salad. Expanding on the homemade is better theme, Mary Ann also gives recipes for making some of the ingredients used in her bread variations, like Spicy Mustard, Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil, and even Vanilla Extract.

With beautiful step-by-step photographs of the bread-making process, readers can see what the dough should look like during each stage. There are also step-by-step photographs for recipe techniques like assembling the Caponata Tartlets and shaping the sweet Poppy Seed Pretzels. Mary Ann gives home cooks everything they need to rise to bread-baker status.

About the Author

Mary Ann Esposito grew up eating and cooking the Italian dishes created by her Sicilian and Neapolitan-born grandmothers. After receiving a master's degree in Italian history (translating a 14th-century Italian cooking manuscript for her thesis) and becoming a high school history teacher, Mary Ann fully embraced Italian food and started taking cooking classes in Italy.

With this new experience Mary Ann created her Ciao Italia PBS cooking series. This highly acclaimed show has been broadcast on more than 250 stations and has more than one million viewers for each episode. Ciao Italia is going into its ninth season on PBS. Mary Ann has been a guest on The Today Show, Regis and Kathy Lee, Discovery's Home Matters, and Lifetime's Our Home. She has been featured in USA Today, Family Circle. And TV Guide. Her other three books, Ciao Italia, Nella Cucina and Celebrations Italian Style have been bestsellers, with more than 500,000 copies in print. Mary Ann's efforts are focused on preserving the culinary history and traditions of homemade Italian food.


What You Knead
Three Simple Yeast Doughs That Turn into
Dozens of Breads, Pizzas, Savory Pies, and Desserts
by Mary Ann Esposito
William Morrow & Co.
1997; $22.00/hardcover
Recipes & photos reprinted by permission.


Spring Flings


What You Knead, by Mary Ann Esposito

More Cooking Secrets of the CIA,
from the Culinary Institute of America

This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.


Modified August 2007