Top positive review
39 people found this helpful
Beautiful, inspiring, and it works!!
on 24 February 2009
'Local Breads' is a wonderful bread baking book, from the point of view of ease of use, clear instructions, and of course spectacular home bread results. I started baking bread about a year ago using Ursula Ferrigno, Leith's Baking Bible, and Anne Sheasby's Big Book of Bread, all perfect for the novice, easy to make, straight-dough recipes without any complicated starters. However, I have decided that the time has come for some more serious bread baking, including sourdoughs made from traditional starters. I wanted to dedicate more time to breadmaking and wanted to make REAL bread rather than quick-rise loaves that can be made in a couple of hours. And so I purchased, among others, bread baking books by Peter Reinhart, Rose Beranbaum, and Daniel Leader. And what can I say - after trying various starters, levains, bigas, preferments, Local Breads certainly comes out tops.
What infuriated me about a number of other bread books was the amount of recipes that call for heavy duty kitchen mixers. I am usually unable to make half of the recipes becauuse I do not have a Kitchen Aid, and the instructions are so off-putting saying that "the dough is too runny to make by hand." Surely no-one had Kitchen Aids 100 or 500 years ago when real hearth breads were baked, so why cannot authors just give recipes that can easily be made by hand just like our ancestors did?? And this is where Local Breads wins in every respect - his mammoth book contains perhaps 5 or 6 recipes where you need a Kitchen Aid, all the rest (including ciabattas and focaccias) can be made by hand.
I have tried many new and unusual recipes from this book and have not once been disappointed. The rosemary loaf and bread sticks go wonderfully with Italian food, the blue cheese loaves are delicious, the ricotta loaf is plain but moist and delicately flavoured, possibly one of my favourites in the book. There are sourdoughs based on breads from France, Germany, Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic, all varying in the amount and type of rye used. There's a wonderful selection of Italian breads made mostly with bigas, including a wonderful mushroom focaccia - amazing! There are starters and breads based on other grains such as spelt and kamut, allowing you to include plenty of variety in your bread making.
Of course you will need to visit a health food shop to buy most of the flours recommended by the author, or even visit an internet shop (like the Flour Bin) to buy some very specialised ingredients - French 55 baguette flour, durum wheat flour, Canadian high gluten flour. To be honest however, before my quest to bake truly traditional breads and invest in these specialised flours, I did make many recipes using ordinary strong white bread flour - and the results were fantastic anyway and I was certainly not disappointed. I only progressed to specialised flours because I wanted to make a more authentic product and I hoped that baguettes using type-55 flour would taste even better...well, I can definitely say it was worth ordering that flour!
I am also very enthusiastic about Dan Leader's formulas for sourdough in this book - there are 4 of them: rye sourdough, liquid levain, stiff dough levain, semolina sourdough. I have tried both the rye sourdough and the stiff dough levain and they both work wonderfully. Dan Leader suggests using organic flour and bottled water just to make sure everything is perfect for the wild yeast, but I used ordinary tap water and non-organic bread flour and after 6 days my sourdough was ready to use, without any expensive ingredients such as orange juice and yoghurt which are recommended by other books. Dan leader's rye sourdough was the first one I've ever done and it was incredibly rewarding to watch flour and water nearly triple in volume without any commercial yeast!! Do not get discouraged if your sourdough does not do this after 4 days; keep feeding your culture for another 6 days and it will soon come to life - I had to do 2 extra days of feeding before it worked.
Local Breads is clearly laid out and the instructions are so easy to follow; all the quantities are set out in a table using grams, ounces and cup measures for whichever method you're comfortable with. But most of all, I am so glad to have a book which produces consistent and delicious results every time.