Sacramentan Greg Berger is out with a new cookbook, “Bread Baking Basics,” aimed at novice bakers. We chatted with him about his approach to putting new bakers at ease, where he seeks inspiration, and why buns deserve more respect.
You fell in love with baking bread in 2010 when you read a book about sourdough and tried making a loaf. What was special about that experience?
I’d always been into cooking but had steered away from baking because you always hear that it’s such a complicated process and you have to be so precise. But the first time I did it, it worked. It wasn’t the greatest loaf of bread, but you could eat it. Each time it got a little better, and I liked that process.
You’re a graphic designer. Is there a link between that work and your baking?
Both of them are very solitary, but they complement one another. When I’m doing my design work, it’s just me home with the dog, sitting in front of the computer. So getting up and being able to stick your hands into the dough and do something physical—I needed something to contrast with sitting and staring at the screen.
Tell me about your new cookbook. What do you have to say about baking bread that hasn’t been said before?
This book is for people who have always said they wanted to bake but have been too intimidated by it and just want the most simple recipe possible. I tried to strip it down to be very easy. There are other books out there for beginners, but they still tend to have recipes where you have to measure the flour in grams or figure out the water temperature with a thermometer. I stuck with measuring cups and using your finger to figure out if the water is warm enough.
You wrote a previous cookbook, “Buns & Burgers.” I’ve always thought buns were an underappreciated part of what makes a burger great.
I think buns are totally underappreciated. I was surprised when I was doing research for that book that there’s a million hamburger cookbooks but almost every one of them would have, at best, one bun recipe. So that was sort of the idea: Could I come up with 30 different types of buns you could use not just with hamburgers but any type of sandwich?
Who are your baking inspirations?
My inspirations generally come not necessarily from anybody who’s famous but from looking at Instagram. I follow bakers and bakeshops and people from all over the world. So I see fluffy bread from Japan or great pastries from France. I get inspired by seeing those pictures. If something looks interesting, I’ll try to find out how they did it and re-create it myself.