on 12 May 2009
What a glorious book. I started to make my own bread a little over 8 months ago and had a reasonable level of success, but was always disappointed by the lost loaves that didn't quite work out. This book put an end to these problems and I can honestly say I've not had a bad loaf since.
The basic bread recipe is explained in great detail with information as to why you're doing each stage, and what is going on with the dough at each stage. This takes the mystery out of your loaf and helps you to understand if anything is going wrong, giving you a chance to correct it before its to late. One you've followed this through a couple of times then the basic recipe is given in a short version, much more like a normal recipe, making it easy to follow.
After the basics have been learnt then the skies the limit. There are plenty of other recipes to have a go at (not to mention the gorgeous focaccia bread) and a rather useful section on what to make with your bread that is a little past its best. There is even a section on how to make your own outdoor bread oven that has got me dreaming of outdoor feasts over the summer.
A simple to follow must have guide without the waffle about the "terrible state of the modern bread industry" that is often present in other books. Buy it now!
This is the best book on bread I have ever come across. My bread making as improved out of sight since reading it. At a first glance this book, like the others I've seen in this series, looks too pretty to be much good. But like all the others in the series it manages to have a huge amount of substance to back up its beauty. The first 50 odd pages go through the process of bread making and the techniques involved step by step and in real detail but without being dull or pedantic. They are worth the price twice over as reading these is what has made such a massive difference to my bread - the rest is a very nice bonus. Thanks for writing such a great book. One of the highlights of what is a very, very good series.
on 13 April 2009
This book is simply brilliant. The 'basic' bread recipe takes 54 pages (yes, 54!) because goes through each stage in detail, explaining why each step is important. This section alone is worth the purchase price because it contains all the basic skills you need. I thought I made pretty good bread already, but since I got this book and read through this section, my bread has got 100 times better.
He covers aspects most others don't such as how to shape the loaves and the basic ratios that almost all bread recipes are based on and has the customary (and well deserved) attack on the Chorleywood process that has all but killed 'real' bread for most people.
Dan's writing conveys his enthusiasm really well and makes you want to get stuck in straight away. He also covers the more specialist breads well (such as bagels, ciabatta) and yeast free breads (like soda bread).
on 24 January 2011
Not often I write a review, but this book has inspired me. Have only recently got into bread making. Have only had 3 attempts so far. First loaf, a Delia recipe of the net. Turned out not bad, a bit dark round the edges, a bit dense, tasted ok. 2nd attempt, a recipe from Elizabeth Davids English Bread book, recommended by many, but totally unreadable and un-user friendly. Loaf came out a bit of a weird brown/grey colour and was a weird texture. Tasted quite good, almost sourdough like, but too salty for my tastes
And then I bought the River Cottage book. Straight away I was really impressed by the no nonsense writing, clear instructions and great photos. Thought I'd try a simple white load based on the basic loaf recipe. And it turned out perfectly, I seriously cannot think of any way it could have been better. The sort of bread you see in specialist shops that I'd happily pay good money for. A crisp but chewy crust, springy but soft crumb, amazing smell and loads of flavour. Seriously impressed, and I'd recommend this book 100% even if it was this result alone. Wish I could post up a photo of it so you could see how great it turned out
The rest of the book also looks excellent, with recipes for the other breads I plan on making (brioche, bagels, sourdough) plus all sorts of other recipes (pizza, muffins, roti). There are other more involved bread books out there if you wanted to get into baking bread more seriously, but as a clear and effective first purchase, I don't think you could get better than this
on 23 December 2009
As an avid fan of anything HFW does I actually veered away from this series of books, as I have the early River Cottage books and had feared for the ineveitable over-kill such an industrious output usually engenders.
However, I found Daniel Stevens book on bread making to be so accessible it was untrue. I also have several other bread books by leading lights in the new bread making canon but they cannot touch this book for ease, simplicity, common sense, and a refreshing lack of 'up-there-own-backside' attitude.
Put another way, Andrew Whitely's book on bread is a polemical and fascinating read, and an essential for serious bakers. But it just isn't an easy book, and the directions for bread making are lost amongst the artisan politics of the author. For instance he goes into great length on the ins and outs of various dough making techniques (such as the overnight sponge, poolish, sourdough etc.) but fails to direct the reader adequately on how to achieve these things. One of the first things I found in Bread: River Cottage Handbook No.3 was a simple recipe for an overnight sponge - weights and measures, technique, everything.
One of things pointed out in other reviews has been the extended sequence on a basic bread dough recipe. For me this works as it is amply demonstrated in pictures and directions and gives the reader a crash course in creating a dough, kneading, shaping, and baking. Just brilliant, simple, and informative. Stevens then goes into page-by-page detail on all manner of bread recipes - focaccia, flat bread, spelt loaf, brioche - in the same simple but informative style. You literally could buy this book, get it home and have a loaf by tea-time. The book also seems to cover the same areas of other weightier tomes but with a lightness that doesn't bash you round the head. Simply put this book gives you the bones of what you need to get going in bread making, but has the weight of information to lead you to the more hardcore bakers if you're interested enough.
The final chapter on building a clay oven is outstanding. It helps seal the deal on what is a thoroughly readble and enjoyable book, and because of it's simplicity and no-nonsense approach the book enthuses the reader in a way that other food polemics often fail to do.
Like other River Cottage titles (Meat for instance) this book should be the starting point for anybody interested in taking an interest in their food that step further. It will embolden and enliven you.
on 14 April 2010
Bread. I love it. It's hellishly hard to get right though, isn't it!?
For years I have been trying to make bread at home, without a bread-maker. I have about half-a-dozen books, I have been through kilos and kilos of flour, hours of kneading and endless kilowatts of electricity. I have laboured and toiled and I have *never* quite got it right. A decent soft white loaf, made from simple ingredients (flour, salt, yeast, water - perhaps some oil too) sounds easy, but success has alluded me. What started as a simple wish for a nice loaf, turned in to a quest to just get one loaf right once.
Thanks to this book, that happened today.
I read the book last night, just the first few pages on how to make a standard white loaf. This morning I got up and made some bread, following the instructions as closely as I could and the result has been fantastic. A soft white loaf with a perfect crust.
There is a lot more to this book than how to make a loaf of bread though. There's a section on why you don't need to ever throw bread out, to making a clay oven - as well as many many more recipes. The book itself is a small hard-backed A5 size volume and it written beautifully, with clear and concise yet un-patronising instructions and tips.
What can I say. It worked for me. I put some images up on the review so you can see my results for yourself. I am very pleased I bought this book.
on 3 March 2013
I dont know what it is about this book. I like River Cottage, Hugh, etc, but I just find this book's recipes rather uninspiring. Half of the book is devoted to baking technique and the other half to recipes of various sorts: bread itself, buns, etc, random-things-that-are-kind-of-bready, what to do with leftover bread. There aren't many pictures of the recipe products. I think it would have helped me to have had a snapshot of each, even if it's just all of the them together at the start of the chapter.
I bake some type of bread-product each weekend and there are some recipes that I do use: the hot cross buns and the English muffins work nicely. Some other recipes, however, I cannot get to work at all (Chelsea Buns in particular, and looking around I'm not the only one).
If you have never baked bread before then the first section of the book will be perfect for you and I would recommend it. If you have been baking a while then you may find the recipes uninspriring (and I would look at Richard Bertinet's books instead).
on 24 June 2012
In 2010 when my wife and I restarted bread making after a long interval, we got this book to get us going. The choice was based on our enjoyment of previous River Cottage books (in particular the majestic "Meat"). As a way of easing us back into the routine of kneading, proving etc., it was invaluable, and gave us the confidence we needed to persevere with things. The basics, like generic quantities, temperatures, possible problems etc. are well set out. There are enough interesting bread recipes to get you started on sourdoughs, flatbreads, rolls and various other loaves.
There are some obvious problems. The actual amount of text in the book is limited by far too much space being devoted to extraneous photographs. The description of the construction of an oudoor oven (about 20 pages) is a waste of space and came as a very unpleasant surprise when the book arrived from Amazon: after all, we are buying a book on breadmaking, not bricklaying. There are also some recipes using bread (1 or 2 in rather a tenuous way) that I recognise from other River Cottage books. It is in fact not that great value for money and one has the impression of a book being filled out to get the "right" number of pages.
Another thing that has become apparent in the last 2 years is that some recipes are made to seem too complicated. Ciabatta is a prime example. We were put off doing this for a long time by the description. When we did try it (with simplifications), it was easy. There are other examples.
So the judgement after 2 years use is: to ease you in to bread making, a good place to start. People who, like us, stick with making their own bread, will find they want more than is here. Would probably have been 4 stars without the outdoor oven part.
on 4 March 2009
Like the other River Cottage handbooks, this one is beautifully designed and written. It's good for both beginning bakers and those who are regularly making bread. But my one big gripe is in the recipes using a sourdough starter - in each one, Dan gives the measurement of sourdough starter as 'a ladleful'. But how much is that?? I have a couple of ladles, and the difference between them is over 150ml - a huge difference in a baking recipe.
Having made a starter according to Dan's instructions (and it's fermenting nicely), I'm now using someone else's recipe to make bread, as it gives an exact measurement for the starter.
on 15 July 2009
This is an excellent book, for both the begineer and the more advanced bread maker. It takes you from the basics, and covers everything you need to know. It certainly helped me in getting the dough mix right, and explained the kneading/proving in better detail than some others (including books by Britain's best loved Cook!!!). The are loads of different ideas, from basic bread, to breads from around the world. Highly recommended if you are into, and want to start, making your own bread.