Customer Review

18 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment so far, 12 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Brilliant Bread (Hardcover)
My first bread book was 'Dough' by Richard Bertinet. I found this book to be so inspiring, foolproof, and therefore confidence-building that I soon started to try some other books on the subject.

Bought a Paul Hollywood one: '100 Great Breads'. Not bad, but a bit hit and miss to tell you the truth. Never mind, a couple more successful Bertinet recipes soon got me feeling good about making bread again. So I tried James' 'Brilliant Bread' after reading all the glowing reviews.

Personally, so far, I'm not that impressed. It starts off with a great section explaining the science and understanding of every stage of the bread-making process (still it's best bit), but I felt let down when it came to the actual recipes. First up: Naan bread.

This recipe suggests pressing the dough against the side of the oven to bake it, but ONLY if you have a very clean oven. And if you DON'T have a very clean oven, or you would just rather not do this? No alternative suggestion. James states to get in touch in the book, so I did just that on Twitter. To his credit, he replied when I asked him how to bake the naan another way. Unfortunately, his answer? 'On a tray in a hot oven!'. Thanks James. What I was actually hoping for was an idea of temperature and time, but never mind. Onwards!

Next: Pain De Mie. To cut a long story short, the bread came out WAY over baked. It's probably partly my fault for trusting the book so much, but a similar recipe in (you guessed it) Bertinet's book yields perfect Pain De Mie. Never mind! Onwards! I suppose.

Next attempt: breadsticks! What could go wrong? Well, you COULD get right to the end of the recipe and discover that there's absolutely no mention of oven temperature or time for the breadsticks. Just a vague 'slide them onto your hot baking surface'. And... that's it. So not only is it doubtful you COULD 'slide' long pieces of dough onto a tray or stone, but I had to resort to (yup) my 'bible', Bertinet's 'Dough' for a clue as to how to bake them. (Incidentally, I find Bertinet's breadsticks MUCH better).

So, all in all, not great. I WANT to like this book, there seems to be so many nice SOUNDING recipes in there - but more and more I'm finding Bertinet's book the only one that gives consitently good bread. Maybe Paul is too much of an 'industry' baker for the home baker, and maybe James isn't experienced enough. And perhaps, as Richard Bertinet constantly teaches classes in bread making, maybe he's refined his recipes to make them absolutely foolproof for the average Joe like me. Whatever it is, I can't recommend this book to anyone. You know which one I CAN recommend.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Dec 2013 11:29:38 GMT
Last edited by the author on 14 Dec 2013 11:31:08 GMT
Ash says:
I skipped the breadsticks because they looked so bland but you're right, besides the high pre-heating temperature there's no timing for the baking.

I looked around BBC food website and the following can be used as a guide:
- Paul Hollywood's olive breadsticks - 10-15min @ 220C
- Lorraine Pascale big fat breadsticks - 20min @ 200C

You should try the 'Stilton Braid' recipe. It's kinda fun. But the description and accompanying cropped photo can make it quite confusing. And measure out your oven tray before rolling out the rectangular dough otherwise you might have to fit it in diagonally or worst, it won't fit! Pfff... the following iPlayer video shows you how to make & fold the plats:
- Paul Hollywood's Pies and Puds - Episode 18 - Skip to 12min 57s

Posted on 22 Dec 2013 01:23:56 GMT
J. P. Morton says:
Author here - take all critical reviews on board and very seriously. Thought it might be useful to post up here the response I emailed Marc to clear up these issues: Dear Marc,

First off, thanks for buying the book; very kind of you to try it out. I'm sorry that so far it isn't to your satisfaction and will do my best to remedy this and give my response to your concerns raised so far by justifying how the book is laid out and so hopefully showing you what my intention was.

First, naan breads. Naans should be baked as hot as possible for the minimum possible time for them to be cooked so they remain soft with minimal crust formation. This is why I recommend, if you have a clean oven, pressing them onto the side, as this tends to be vastly hotter than the air temperature with very good heat transfer into the dough. As you quite rightly point out, very few of us have perpetually clean ovens and so much of the time this is impractical. In the introduction, I do state that you can quite happily bake on a preheated baking stone. Or failing that, on a very hot, preheated tray as alluded to on twitter and both the 2nd and 4th chapters of the book. I apologise for not being able to give a temperature or time, but that's because of the high oven variability in how hot they go. I would bake naans simply as hot as it goes for just enough time that it is starting to go a speckled brown; no more than 5-6 minutes for the majority of us and not long enough to go away and leave it.

Pain de Mie - this recipe has been the most complemented of all recipes and so this surprised me. As with the majority of the issues raised in your review, this one seems another related to baking time. Enriched doughs can catch many unawares due to their high sugar content. Additionally, if proved for a long time (e.g. overnight) then there is much higher conversion of starch->sugar and so over-blackening can happen much quicker. I would recommend, however, that perhaps you invest in an oven-thermometer; my own oven's middle shelf is out by about 20 degrees based on the oven thermostat. These recipes have all been tested and work well in standard gas, standard electric and fan ovens. Additionally, I will reference you back to the 3 chapters on understanding bread where your own preferences and finishing touches are encouraged. The philosophy behind the book is that it is process-based; the recipes are there as guides for you to develop your own style and take from it what you will. If your bread comes out burnt one time with your method and your oven, bake it less the next time; that is bread. There is no guide on exact numbers and how much time to reduce; that's where using your own judgement comes in.

Breadsticks - there is no mention of oven time or temperature for breadsticks and this is an oversight, I admit. The inclusion of a breadsticks recipe was intended simply a novel guide to encourage the reader to use up any leftover dough. However, I would reiterate my previous points: there is very high variability in the preference and making of breadsticks and as such a vast variation in oven temperatures and baking times, depending what you want. Depending on what your dough is and what shape/size it is, it will take different times. There is, though convoluted for one recipe I'll admit, sufficient information in the book to indicate temperature. As is explained, it's up to you: bake hot for a short period of time and you'll have thin-crusted bread snakes, if that's what you want. If you want crisp, dry ones, turn down the oven 20C and bake for a longer period of time until they reach the same colour. This could be anywhere from 200-240C on your oven's thermometer depending on a wide range of factors.

I'm glad you like Richard's book, he is a good pal and we both have the same editor, funnily enough. I would finally say that I have found experience in professional bakeries not to be an issue when writing books; I feel I have been successful in connecting to many readers and derive satisfaction from showing anyone who wants to how easy bread can be at home. I don't believe many professional chefs or bakers have done that.

I'm sorry for being so vague and lengthy in many areas here, but I don't want to give specific guidelines that then do not provide something you are after. I hope you'll agree that bread is, ultimately, very forgiving and there is no such thing as perfection - only preference.

Does what I have written sound reasonable? If you've any more questions or issues, please email me right back.

Cheers,
James
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