This review is confined to the bread section of the book - about two thirds of the whole, since that is my main interest.
It is unclear for which audience the book is intended since most of the recipes are given for batches of three or four loaves. The introduction to bread-making appears to be for the beginner but is only intelligible to a relatively experienced home baker, and one who has a food mixer described in one recipe as a 'high speed kneading machine' - which sounds like a substantial piece of kit. Very many amateur bakers, in the UK at least, prefer to knead by hand. Much of what a home baker would find useful has been left out or glossed over and because much of the explanation is so poorly written that it is close to unintelligible previous experience is needed to interpret what is being said. The large section on sourdough is poor and chemical names seem intended to impress rather than to shed light. There are numerous non-sequiturs in poorly organised paragraphs and in the section on scalding rye flour the terms flour, bread, and dough are used interchangeably without distinction - confusing if you don't already know what is intended. Unfortunately, this introduction is essential if one is to follow the recipes for bread in the book - constant reference is made to it. There are also a couple of quantity errors which could lead to a loss of confidence.
The publisher is to blame for this mess. While the foreword is elegantly written by a stylish wordsmith the introduction to baking is written by someone of far lesser skill. The publisher has not paid attention to this deficiency, hence the missed opportunity to convey the special knowledge of the author.Read more ›
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Needs Editing1 Jan. 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Recently I've become interested in European baking, so I was waiting eagerly for the release of this book and ordered it as soon as it became available. I'm sorry to say it's not really about Swedish baking. There are a few Swedish bread recipes but most of the recipes are for French bread, Italian bread, focaccia, fougasse, croissants, Danish pastry, etc., i.e., pretty much what you would find in any baking book. Except that here the recipes are rendered in rather awkward translations from Swedish. Sometimes they're downright confusing. For instance regarding the gluten test: "If the dough comes apart too easily, it needs to be worked more. However if it bursts too easily, it has been worked too much." (?) And a bread glaze: "Mix 10 grams of potato flour and 50 grams of water. Boil 300 grams of water, whisk the flour and let it cook." Do you mix the 50 grams of water + flour into the 300 grams of water? Maybe, but I'm not really sure.
I don't want to be too hard on this book; there are some good things about it. The photographs are very nice and the breads and pastries look appetizing. An experienced baker might be able to use the book despite the translation difficulties and be inspired by the beautiful photos. And there are a few very interesting recipes for Swedish breads such as wort bread, old-time syrup loaf, and coarse Skane bread--just the kinds of things I was hoping for. I don't even particularly object to quirky translations; they can be charming and funny, providing the underlying information is understandable. However, this book would have benefited immensely from better translation and editing.
This book is published by Skyhorse Press, which seems to specialize in Swedish books. I own another book from Skyhorse Press called Swedish Cakes and Cookies, which I love. Swedish Cakes and Cookies has great photographs and is packed with recipes that are translated well, so maybe they can fix this book up a little in a later edition.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Big Sweden gathers the World13 Oct. 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Reading the several reviews that have been disappointed by this outstanding cookbook, I decided to offer another experience. They were looking for a traditional book of Swedish baking, one that presented recipes from the old country that Grandmother baked. There are additional criticisms about the presentation of this material, troubles with the weights and measures and a few confusing steps in the instructions. All these are valid criticisms. My perspective is different so I offer it without prejudice to their honest remarks.
This cookbook is not for beginners. If you want a basic approach with traditional recipes, I suggest you consider Ojakangas fine book. Even so, she has a Scandinavian approach rather than anything you might imagine as strictly Swedish.
Sweden is not an insular country. Wars aside, you cannot fully separate them from Denmark or Finland, for starters. But I must go at least one step further; you cannot separate Sweden from Europe. So Jan Hedh is for me a typical Swede - adventurous, international and brazenly pilfering from whichever lands suit his purpose.
Go to a Swedish bakery and you will find Danishes labeled Vienna; and there will be no shortage of French breads and pastries, or of Berliners either. But they all have a Swedish accent, which means aromatic spices and herbs. That is what I hoped to find here.
Somebody was telling me that she does not use butter in bread, only on it. Hey kid, no margarine in Malmo. Beautiful butter makes soft sweet breads. The first treasure in this book is Jan's discussion of rye flours and rye bread. His is not the wimpy cousin you get in cellophane at the store.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jan does not get carried away with caraway. How about raisins and honey instead? And true rye sour dough, the five-day kind that leaves them begging on their knees for more. Use this Jan Levain. You will be happy to use your own robust local yeast falling out of your ambient air into this spectacular starter. No foil packets here. Rather, freshly grated apple to charge your incubating yeasties. This is just like back home in Northern Italy, which is kind of like Sweden - high large lakes and snowy mountains and great old apple trees that bear in late fall after frost. But I went for the Aceto Balsamico Pain au Levain, mind you the vinegar has to be aged at least sixteen years, better twenty-five.
There are only a dozen bread books I use continually; and another bakers' dozen on pastry. The rest are obscure reference books that light see the light of day once a year or so. Jan has so much new material that his book has not left the kitchen since I got it. I am overjoyed to see how little overlap there is to my collection. He is especially strong on his use of flours. So if you already are pleased with your command of dough, then come here to let your horizons rise, as it were.
You will be happy to know that Jan's pastry section is rather homey. These recipes are rather small scale and not trophy class, though God knows he has won more than a few. Most all of these will not stress your technical prowess, but you will find a whole new field of competence.
You will find uses for a big bag of blue poppy seed. I have a poppy seed grinder. They are cheap and easy, just like me. You can make do with your coffee mill. But I warn you, this urge will come upon you to have a dedicated poppy seed grinder. The good news is that blue poppy seed is economical in bulk. And that 4/5th s full jar, dark with dust in your neglected cabinet - just throw it out.
One stern warning: If you have not graduated to measuring your baking ingredients on a scale, you must make that leap now. There is little point in buying this book otherwise. But you already know that since I said this book is not for the novice.
Into the heart: The sponge cake is easy, Gateau de Savoie. Nobody will believe you made it; and hardly anybody has eaten one. Real Swedish? Cardamom is the seed pod of a special lily. Here, the lily guilds the pastry. How is that for a twist? A pure Cardamom Twist!
Once you get a load of those, you will push onto more cardamom adventures. How about Swedish Buttercake with even more cardamom, but jacked with rum and rind?
This is my top bread book for the last year. Thank you for your precious time.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Misleading Title18 Dec. 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
A huge disappointment - I preordered this book so that I could re-live my childhood in Sweden by making authentic Swedish recipes! The title is extremely misleading. Not even half the recipes are Swedish - they're from all over Europe! The book is missing several every day Swedish recipes like kanel bullar, rymbo bullar, semlor etc.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Not Many Bread Recipes Call for "Vinegar" ...29 Oct. 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
... but the substantial review of this book by "aceto" (vinegar) called on me, a Swede of sorts, to order it. He was just. It's an excellent cookbook for experienced and adventuresome bread makers. I've tried only one recipe specifically as presented in the book, but I've made similar versions of several of the Swedish breads and pastries, as well as versions of some of the non-Swedish breads included in the text. Yes, it's not all Swedish. Some of the recipes are ineluctably un-Swedish, utterly Mediterranean. Oh well. Also, as aceto reports, you'll need to use a kitchen scale rather than a measuring cup if you want to follow these recipes precisely. Once again, oh well. If you live in New York, or San Francisco, or a city of similar bread-making prowess, you'll probably want this book only for an occasional kitchen frolic since you can buy breads of the highest qualities close to home. And, sad to say, if you want this book because you live in some gawdforsaken place where good breads are not to be bought, you may find that the quality of flour and other ingredients available to you isn't sufficient to make great breads even with great recipes. Having given that warning, however, I'd say this is one of the best 'bread' books I've ever looked at.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Extremely delightful recipes25 May 2011
Pamela C. Murphy
- Published on Amazon.com
I have been baking bread for a few years now. Jan Hedh's book is at the top end of the bread baking skill set. If you recalculate the oven temperatures from centigrade to fahrenheit, you'll do much better as there are a couple of miscalculations in the book. I did find that weighing ingredients yields a very nice loaf of bread. Making your own yeast- levain and other concoctions such as "poolish" has been a lot of fun and a real part of a successful loaf of bread. There is a reason for every instruction given. Pay attention to the rye recipes in this book. They're simply fabulous! Please try this book if you are willing to pay close attention to the process of baking bread! I just love this hobby! Yummmmm!