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on 17 September 2011
This is a good book for those that have baked bread before and perhaps tried sourdough and want to have more adventures with those recipes. I would not recommend it for a beginning bread baker. The directions and methods are for those that are a bit more experienced.

Ed Wood is an experienced sourdough baker. He is very exact and precise about his sourdough cultures and keeping them pure from yeast. Included in this book are; the birth and life of sourdough, the ingredients, putting it together, recipes that go from the basic sourdough to challah, to rye and then muffins, buns, pancakes and waffles. He includes baking with a bread machine which will probably be a relief to those that wish to use them. There are lots of savory bread recipes which are wonderful and some no-kneads are also included There is information on cultures from Sourdough International and an index.

If you would like to make your own culture, which is truly an adventure and an amazing project for interesting younger bakers in this art - that is included. He has come up with the idea and provides instructions for making your own proof box - just Styrofoam and a light bulb. The proof box is not that difficult and is a great tool in this age of air conditioned, controlled temperature housing.

It is a revelation for even some experienced bakers to learn of and be able to obtain different cultures and to bake bread using no commercial yeast. It's truly an experience that you should do if you have started to bake bread...which I would advise everyone to try - it's fun and such a satisfying experience.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 July 2012
I bought this after reading the "look inside" extracts in some detail. These led me to expect a more wide-ranging, in-depth coverage of the subject. In fact, the introductory chapters were fascinating and I would have liked more of the same. Having said that, the Woods have dealt with the subject with admirable conciseness, including enough background to fascinate, and not so much as to become tedious. Cultures and their idiosyncracies are clearly explained, and the book deals with a wide range of different grains, some of which I'd never heard of.

The instructions for making sourdough breads are well-written, but not idiot-proof. Sourdough is not an idiot-proof discipline. You'll need to read well and understand, not just dive in to the first recipes. It will certainly help if you have previous experience of making bread the old-fashioned way (ie not in a bread machine). The recipes themselves are astonishingly varied, with breads and other sourdough delicacies from round the world. I have only tried the basics so far, but can't wait to branch out and experiment.

The recipes are in the American style. Quantities are given in "cups" but metric equivalents are also supplied. At times the conversions are confusing; translating a quart as "a liter" (sic) only makes sense when you remember that an American pint is much smaller than a British pint. However, as bread making is as much an art as a science, this shouldn't make it too tricky for UK cooks to use.

If you want to understand more about the story of bread, how its living components come together to make it, and discover an extra range of recipes of all sorts for making yeast-raised things (many of which can easily be adapted to using wild yeast cultures, by the way), I can strongly recommend the old-fashioned but still unbeaten English Bread and Yeast Cookery, by the great Elizabeth David
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on 17 January 2015
Although this appears to be a set text for sourdoughistsas, I found it quite unhelpful in several ways, which I will list, not necessarily in order of importance. First, there are no pictures, so it is hard, especially for the novice, to know what you are making will or should look like. Next, the recipes seem to have been made by cutting and pasting the same words from one recipe to the next, which while it makes for concision, has all the allure of an old fashioned technical manual. Next, Ed Wood specifies ambient kitchen temperatures that maybe ok in his part of the world, but where I live (Cornwall, in winter) they are simply unattainable. Next, he uses some sort of makeshift box for proving dough that is made from a polystyrene box and a lightbulb that can prove dough at precise temperatures, such as 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This sort of apparatus is simply not practicable for most people. Finally, he uses sugar and milk in his recipes, which to my mind make sourdough bread less healthy. I prefer the recipe I found on line at a website called Little Chef, Big Knife, run by one Emma Christensen, which is much less prescriptive and seems to be designed by humans for humans... On the plus side, he has a wide range of recipes and I have found in making sourdough that it is always useful to see different ways of doing things. For example, Emma Christensen uses a levain or "sponge" to start her loaves, where Ed Wood doesn't.
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on 24 November 2013
I was looking for something really specific in a breadmaking book - sourdough breads which work within a timescale that suits me. Most sourdough recipes which I'd already seen either took 36 hours to make (thus finish at awkward times), or suggest using refrigeration to retard the dough to a timescale that suits you (Peter Reinhart's Artisan Bread Everyday is classic for using refrigeration). I'm a student, living in halls with others, and have absolutely zero room in a refrigerator to retard dough. Which is why this book is great.

The vast majority of breads in this book are designed to have an overnight (12 hour) rise, unrefridgerated. It is possible to play around with the timings further - warm water if you want it done in 10-11 hours - cold milk, cold eggs if you want the first proof to be finished in about 16 hours (unrefridgerated). Then shape and proof at room temperature for another 3-4 hours(ish)before baking. For me, this system is perfect. Due to the slow rising properties of sourdough, the worry that your dough will overproof if you take your eye off it for 15 minutes is practically non-existant - IMHO, you get about an hour's leeway as to when you have to stick it in the oven.

Due the the long slow rising times, the doughs are amazing and flavourful (and the very wet ones are really extensible). In my opinion, the long slow rising process also allows for good gluten development without the need for a huge amount of kneading (I tend to do the Dan Lepard kneading method on all loaves, just because it's so much easier than doing a continuous 15-20 minute hand knead. I know purists frown upon this method, and there is some argument to suggest that thorough kneading is necessary in order to oxgenate the dough. But I've been getting pretty good results using this method, and the dough does windowpane after it's third knead).

Downsides? IMHO, the cooking times given in this book are not long enough (but the oven I use is very unreliable, so it's probably just me. I've had a few loaves which appear perfectly cooked until you get to the middle, which was almost raw). The only abject failures I've had with this book was when I used a sourdough starter which had not been recently refreshed (i.e it was 2 days since it had been refreshed. With this book, it works best if your starter is really recently refreshed - 3-6 hours. Due to the slow rising, a recently refreshed starter is a must, since an old starter will result in a very acidic and gummy textured loaf.)

Also, there's no pictures. So long as you have prior experience making sourdoughs, this book is great (this book doesn't really give any general breadmaking guidance, it's just recipes).
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I brought this book for my mother, who is an eager home baker and makes her own bread. She has read some of Ed Wood’s other books, and this looked like a really good book for her to have and one she would use often.

What we really appreciate in this book (as I make bread as well) is that the recipes are all quite compact. The processes are explained clearly and precisely in the beginning of the book, and the author has gone to pains to explain the differing types of flour, how they work etc. Then the recipes themselves are just about all contained in a single page of clearly laid out instructions. There’s nothing I dislike more in a bread book than recipes, or rather instructions which the author seems to insist you must carry out precisely or woe betide you and your bread. Breadmaking should not be something that scares off prospective bakers; rather, it is an experience of creativity where your senses are brought to bear on the basic ingredients of flour, water, salt and yeast. While there are certain rules it is best to follow, and you learn tips and tricks as you progress through your own breadmaking, it really comes down also to the baker’s ‘feel’ for the dough and the process. This book encourages that, yet contains the baker within sensible and practical recipes which offer a huge variety of breads and bread products for any baker to tackle.

The recipes in this book, and there are many, are all sourdough-based, and the author has also included making sourdough breads in a breadmaking machine for those who choose to do this. I like to get my hands in the dough and knead and pummel it myself, and there are plenty of recipes I am keen to try in this book (I’ll just have to give my mother some so I can borrow her book!). Definitely recommended.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 23 January 2016
I brought this book for my mother, who is an eager home baker and makes her own bread. She has read some of Ed Wood’s other books, and this looked like a really good book for her to have and one she would use often.

What we really appreciate in this book (as I make bread as well) is that the recipes are all quite compact. The processes are explained clearly and precisely in the beginning of the book, and the author has gone to pains to explain the differing types of flour, how they work etc. Then the recipes themselves are just about all contained in a single page of clearly laid out instructions. There’s nothing I dislike more in a bread book than recipes, or rather instructions which the author seems to insist you must carry out precisely or woe betide you and your bread. Breadmaking should not be something that scares off prospective bakers; rather, it is an experience of creativity where your senses are brought to bear on the basic ingredients of flour, water, salt and yeast. While there are certain rules it is best to follow, and you learn tips and tricks as you progress through your own breadmaking, it really comes down also to the baker’s ‘feel’ for the dough and the process. This book encourages that, yet contains the baker within sensible and practical recipes which offer a huge variety of breads and bread products for any baker to tackle.

The recipes in this book, and there are many, are all sourdough-based, and the author has also included making sourdough breads in a breadmaking machine for those who choose to do this. I like to get my hands in the dough and knead and pummel it myself, and there are plenty of recipes I am keen to try in this book (I’ll just have to give my mother some so I can borrow her book!). Definitely recommended.
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on 12 May 2013
As a long-time (more than a half-century) bread baker and sourdough afficionado, I truly looked forward to Ed Wood's Classic Sourdoughs Revised: A Home Baker's Handbook. I was rather disappointed. Classic Sourdoughs reads like an academic treatise. Beginning home bakers will not find it an easy task to dig out the truly pertinent information that they need to know - much of which simply is not present.

I found the statement "As you embark on your work with sourdoughs" (page 25) extremely off-putting. I don't bake bread for WORK and don't encourage others to either. I bake for enjoyment, to save money, to relieve stress, to be able to serve something that I cannot easily acquire otherwise. "Exploration" would have been a far better choice of word.

As to the "handbook" aspect of Classic Sourdoughs, Ed gives very minimal directions for capturing a wild yeast, includes none of the work-arounds developed by other authorities such as King Arthur Flour, and then mostly gives any possible questions a home baker might have a complete brush off. I would expect a handbook to answer questions like:

"I'm moving. How can I best transport my sourdough?"

"I want to send some sourdough to my sister in California. How can I do that?"

"Can a wild yeast only be captured on a wheat starter?"

Ed Wood answers none of these things. He completely fails to mention the rye starters on which so many of the Central European breads depend and brushes off potato starter, the basis of the classic American Salt Rising Bread. His answer to problems capturing your first wild yeast is to simply dump the starter and try again.

In contradiction to a number of other authorities and sources, Wood is adamant that no baker's yeast should ever be added to either a sourdough starter or a sourdough bread. Otherwise, according to Wood, it cannot be considered a "true" sourdough. Unfortunately, he is not such a stickler for tradition when it comes to the recipes that he offers. Let me speak to two in particular, Wood's recipe for Challah on page 57 and his recipe for Bagels on page 116, both of which contain milk.

Both Challah and Bagels are traditional Jewish breads and as such, authentic recipes reflect Jewish dietary law, which prohibits the consumption of milk and meat at the same meal. (Many Orthodox will not eat milk on the same day that they eat meat.) Challah, in particular, is the bread of the Sabbath, the bread over which the household matriarch will say prayers on Friday evening. It is intended to be served at the Sabbath dinner, which in less well-to-do households might be the main meat meal of the week. As such, Challah should NEVER contain milk or butter. Similarly, Bagels, even Egg Bagels, do not ever contain milk. Wood's inclusion of milk in these two recipes, contrary to every Challah or Bagel recipe I have ever run across anywhere, leads me to question the reliability and authenticity of a number of other recipes he includes for more unusual products.

The addition of milk to these two recipes is not my only concern. I bake, thanks to Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread and George Greenstein's Secrets of a Jewish Baker, some of the very best bagels to be had on the planet. (Either of these books includes directions and recipes for several sourdough starters, particularly Secrets of a Jewish Baker.) Even though I am an experienced bread baker, bagels took me several attempts using a variety of recipes from several sources. It is, in fact, only in the last several years that I have succeeded in making bagels. In the end, it all came down to the directions. Ed Wood's are simply entirely inadequate. If you want to learn to bake bagels, see The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Once you know how to bake bagels and want to expand your repertoire, turn to Secrets of a Jewish Baker. Similarly, Challah is a gorgeous braided loaf, but braiding is intricate. You'll need at the very least a good illustration or two and some patience. Wood's two-sentence braiding directions simply are not adequate to the job.

Finally, Wood has, for some reason I don't quite fathom, changed the traditional home-baking terminology of "proofing the yeast", "first rise" and "second rise" to "Culture Proof", "Dough Proof" and "Loaf Proof." As this terminology is unique to Wood, this seems to me to be unnecessarily complicating the subject rather than adding clarity to the basic ideas that underline all bread baking. What exactly it is he includes that represents a "revolutionary new method" I'm afraid escapes me.

Summary: This isn't an expensive book, so if you're just looking for more sourdough recipes you may find this interesting, though I would encourage you to use the Look Inside feature before you buy. If you are specifically looking for a book that will teach you to make sourdough breads, then look elsewhere.
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on 17 February 2016
Excellent Sourdough baking book - great advice on achieving consistent results with lost of different types of flour, with recipes from around the world. Probably not ideal for the beginner, but perfect for taking your sourdough baking to the next level.
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on 12 March 2014
Great recipes and techniques. It is a book for an advanced baker, or maybe somebody who does not have a lot of questions. I always need the fine detail, which this book lacks, but in spite of that, it has a large amount of recipes and techniques.
This book has not got pictures in it (just a few, though but not enough), to get a grasp of what is the shape the author chose for each recipe, so don't get your hopes up for it.

Great book!
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on 17 March 2015
I have a previous edition and have tried many recipes with much success. I make sourdough bread weekly and am delighted to have this new edition. Still studying the changes in his culture proofing timetable. Great book for beginners or seasoned bakers.
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